Warnings for the Unrepentant: Jeremiah 4 -29

broken-pottery

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah was a priest who became a prophet. He began his work during the reign of good king Josiah, a reformer who died too soon and was unable to turn his people back to God. Jeremiah then faced increasing opposition from faithless leaders and a nation unwilling to change. He proclaimed God’s word for 40 years culminating at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction. His message of judgment was fully realized in history, giving great confidence that his promises of restoration would also come true.

  • 627 Jeremiah’s ministry begins, Josiah is king
  • 622 Book of the Law discovered and reforms accelerate
  • 609 Josiah dies in battle and reforms end
  • 608 Jehoiakim becomes king
  • 605 Nebuchadnezzar rules Babylon, which invades Judah and makes it a vassal of Babylon
  • 598 Jehoiachin becomes king but is taken as prisoner to Babylon
  • 597 Zedekiah becomes king
  • 586 Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon
  • 585 Governor Gedaliah killed and Jeremiah taken to Egypt

The first 24 chapters of Jeremiah are full of warning for the people of Judah. Jeremiah gives a series of sermons that accuse the nation of breaking covenant with God, worshiping idols, and failing in their responsibilities as leaders. The sermons are not given in chronological order but jump back and forth through the years leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction.

“ ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.’ ” Jeremiah 7:9-11

Then, in Chapter 25, Judah’s world changes as Nebuchadnezzer takes the throne in Babylon. In the Babylonian king’s first year Jeremiah proclaims that Judah’s time for repentance is over. Had they repented, they could have been reshaped as a potter reshapes a marred piece of clay (Chapter  18). Instead, like a hardened pot that cannot be mended they are bound to be broken (Chapter 19). Jeremiah urges the people to take up the yoke of subjugation under Babylon, but they refuse even this advice (Chapter 27).

Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Jeremiah 25:8-11

Jeremiah will still speak words of hope, but the last half of the book is mainly about judgment and instead of sermons we will read many reports of the harsh treatment the prophet suffered as he faithfully spoke God’s message.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Jeremiah 4-29. Next week I will write about Jeremiah 30-50. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Jeremiah 4-29.

At the crossroads: Jeremiah 6

What does it mean to know God? Jeremiah 9

When the going gets tough… Jeremiah 12

Where are you planted? Jeremiah 17

Before it’s too late: Jeremiah 18-19

Nuggets of wisdom from Jeremiah: Jeremiah 23-25

Life in exile: Jeremiah 29

Comfort and Redemption: Isaiah 42 – Jeremiah 3

3003499701_981bebbaf4_o

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21, quoting Isaiah 61

What do we make of the final half of Isaiah? With the end of Hezekiah’s story in Chapter 39, the stage is set for the rise of Babylon and the forced exile of the people of Judah. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians a century after the death of Isaiah, and it would be another 70 years after the fall before the exiles were able to return to their homeland. When they did return, their way was difficult and sin still characterized their lives. The second half of Isaiah speaks hope to these exiles and promises restoration and eventual prosperity like nothing they have ever experienced.  Isaiah even names the man who will allow their return: Cyrus. Most importantly, the latter half of Isaiah speaks comfort to those who are suffering, complementing the judgment of the first 35 chapters, and reveals their redeemer.

There are two main views of the second or “Babylonian” part of Isaiah. Either Isaiah himself wrote the words, predicting the future by divine revelation, or followers of Isaiah wrote the words according to his teachings during or after the exile. The accuracy of the predictions is the main argument against the authorship of the historical Isaiah, but the New Testament confirms his role repeatedly (John 12:37-41, Matthew 3:3 and 4:14, Mark 1:2 and 7:6), and the Dead Sea Scrolls preserved a unified – not divided – book.

Chapters 40-66 divide into three sections, with both of the first two sections ending with the phrase, “ ‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’ ” In a fashion comparable to the New Testament, these chapters begin with the appearance of a messenger who proclaims the coming of the Messiah and close with the arrival of the New Jerusalem.

Chapter 40-48. The glory of God. Comfort and deliverance are promised by the Glorious God who contrasts his power with the worthlessness of idols. A servant is introduced, originally intended to be the nation of Israel, but Israel repeatedly fails to carry the good news to the world. God hints at his true servant who is coming.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. Isaiah 40:21-23

Chapter 49-57. The glory of the Servant. Salvation is promised through the suffering of the Servant, now clearly a single man who pours himself out to save both the Jews and the world.

…by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:11-12

Chapter 58-66. The glory of the Kingdom. God’s promises become reality in the millennial kingdom and then in the new Heaven and Earth. The righteous receive eternal blessing and the wicked eternal judgment.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Isaiah 60:18-19

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Isaiah 42 – Jeremiah 3. Next week I will write about Jeremiah 4 – 29. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Isaiah 42 – Jeremiah 3.

Facing tribulation: Isaiah 43

Stealth God: Isaiah 45

The true Israel: Isaiah 49

A prescription for healing: Isaiah 58

Jesus and the future of the Jews: Isaiah 61

Isaiah looks at the End Time: Isaiah 65

God will take us back: Jeremiah 3

Image by MTSOfan on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

Understanding Isaiah: Isaiah 9 – 41

chagall_isaiah_1968-e1531522394702

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

In the middle of all the prophecies of doom and promises of hope in Isaiah, there are four chapters of history. Chapters 36-39 not only tell the story of King Hezekiah, but they also provide a key to understanding the structure of the entire book. For the first part of Hezekiah’s story details his struggle with the Assyrians, and the first part of Isaiah through chapter 38 can be considered the Age of Assyria. The last part of Hezekiah’s story introduces the Babylonians, to whom the overly proud king revealed all his country’s wealth, and the final chapters of Isaiah from 40 on can be called the Age of Babylon.

Assyrians were the dominant power in the time of Isaiah, who lived and prophesied from about 740-680 BC. Their threatened invasion hung over every decision that kings made in those days. The northern kingdom of Israel and their neighbor Syria (capital: Damascus) sought Judah’s help in defense against Assyria (chief city: Ninevah). Judah went its own way, but instead of seeking God’s help it turned to Assyria itself or Egypt. Only in the days of Hezekiah did Judah trust in God alone.  Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, but was itself defeated by Babylon by 609 BC.

With that context, Isaiah preaches to corrupt and idolatrous Judah, urging repentance. He exalts the Holy One of Israel, his favorite name for God. He details the coming Messiah, contrasting the eternal king with the sinfulness of the current kings. He highlights the wickedness of the old Jerusalem and the worldly lofty city in comparison with the New Jerusalem.  He condemns and then comforts.

Chapters 1-12. Judgment and hope for Jerusalem.

Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1:4

Chapters 13-27. Judgment on the nations. Includes Chapters 24-27, the Day of the Lord or Isaiah’s Apocalypse.

In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon;
they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory. Isaiah 24:21-23

Chapters 28-35. Judgment and blessing. Woes on the unfaithful and on Assyria. Coming restoration of Zion.

In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:17-19

Chapters 36-39. History of Hezekiah.

Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. Isaiah 37:36-37

 

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Isaiah 9-41. Next week I will write about Isaiah 42 – Jeremiah 3. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Isaiah 9-41.

Boasting when humility is needed: Isaiah 9

The day of the LORD: Isaiah 13

Who holds the key? Isaiah 22

Tale of Two Cities: Isaiah 24-26

Betting on the wrong horse: Isaiah 30

The holy highway: Isaiah 35

Finding comfort: Isaiah 40

Painting by Marc Chagall

Head and Heart: Proverbs 30 – Isaiah 8

TinmanScarecrow

One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart – intelligence and goodness – shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

Head and heart. Thinking and feeling. Brains and emotions. You need both to live abundantly, and you need them in balance. This week’s readings in Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon give us some of that balance. Ecclesiastes explores the need for wisdom in a world threatened by futility. Song of Solomon shows snapshots of romantic love in action, with all its passion and devotion, a love that mirrors God’s devotion to his people and Christ’s devotion to the church.

The key wisdom of Ecclesiastes rests in proper perspective. Instead of looking around at one’s place in space and time in a secular and humanistic way, we must look up to heaven and see our work in the world from a spiritual and eternal viewpoint. Chuck Swindoll in Living on the Ragged Edge called it horizontal and vertical living. With only a horizontal perspective (under the sun) it is easy to be overwhelmed by the brevity of life and effort. With both a horizontal and vertical perspective we enter into the kingdom of heaven and find grace from God that gives power to live with difficulties and purpose for the days of our life. Knowledge, pleasure, work, and possessions will fail us. Amusements and achievements will not satisfy us. But God’s wisdom reveals the truth and gives eternal insight along with the strength to overcome our problems.

Song of Solomon has been frequently classified as allegory, denying its description of romantic love in favor of a representation of divine love. Instead we should embrace the picture of romance without throwing away the comparison with God’s love. We can learn much about both in the Song of Songs, including:

  • the unmatched passion of love
  • the exclusivity of love
  • the adoration of the beloved
  • the complete surrender of self in love

The melding of heart and mind is one of the most important tasks for maturing persons. In this time, especially, we can see every day the mistakes of those who are all passion and no thought, as well as the danger of people who make heartless decisions in a calculating mind devoid of compassion.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Proverbs 30 – Isaiah 8. Next week I will write about Isaiah 9 – 41. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Proverbs 30 – Isaiah 8.

The Super-woman syndrome: Proverbs 31

Finding meaning “under the sun” – Ecclesiastes 1-3

Happy at work: Ecclesiastes 5

How to make the most of life: Ecclesiastes 9

Love as strong as death: Song of Solomon

Judgment and Mercy: Isaiah 1

Hearing but not listening: Isaiah 6

Wise or foolish? Proverbs 10-29

wisdom

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. – Charles Spurgeon

Proverbs aims to impart wisdom to those who lack it, and from the start Proverbs stresses that wisdom begins with the fear of God. How do you interpret this claim?

  • Would you say that all wisdom comes from God?
  • Must one be in a right relationship with God to be wise?

First of all, the wisdom that Proverbs promotes is wisdom that leads to righteousness in a very practical sense. The understanding and discernment it teaches lead to actions that bring about right living. It isn’t about theory but actual choices between right and wrong. With that in mind, it is clear that a right relationship with God founded on correct choices begins with a sure confidence in the existence of God and in his judgment upon those who reject his way.

Personified concepts are very important in the opening of the book. The two main characters are Wisdom and Folly, both portrayed as women, both taking up prominent positions in the center of the community, and both making a claim for the hearts of the readers. Lady Wisdom offers three invaluable assets to those who follow her: intellect, morality, and power. Yet many rashly choose Folly even though she only offers the lure of illicit pleasure.

The idea of foolishness is just as important in Proverbs as the quality of wisdom. There are three kinds of fools we read about. There is the simple one, young and uneducated about the tenets of wisdom, naive and gullible, but still having the ability to learn and change. There is the fool, old enough to know better but carrying on with dull, stupid, and silly ways. The third fool is the mocker, who has not only rejected wisdom but now boasts of his scorn and actively opposes understanding. Do you see the downward spiral?

Beginning in chapter 10, the book uses short sayings that use three methods to drive home their point. The first method is contrast using the keyword “but”. “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” The second method is comparison with the words “is” or “is like”. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” The third method is completion using “and”. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.”

The wisdom of Proverbs is not theoretical but practical. It means nothing if it isn’t practiced. God’s word hits the nitty-gritty of our wishes and wham! Choices must be made.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Proverbs 10-29. Next week I will write about Proverbs 30-Isaiah 8. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Proverbs 10-29.

Giving and Getting: Proverbs 11-12

Healing your heart: Proverbs 13-15

Man’s will and God’s rule: Proverbs 16

Unhappy in marriage: Proverbs 19

Rich man, poor man: Proverbs 22-23

A field guide to fools: Proverbs 26

Economics 101: Proverbs 27

Songs for Pilgrims: Psalm 120 – Proverbs 9

image

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

Psalms 120-134 are called Songs of Ascent. Perhaps they were written for those ascending the hills up to Jerusalem for the yearly feasts. Perhaps they were used by priests ascending the steps of the temple as they prepared to worship. They are more likely intended for those on a spiritual pilgrimage, however, and may have been compiled by the exiles in Babylon who longed to return to their spiritual home. There is a clue to that effect in the first Song of Ascent.

Psalm 120. The psalmist laments his sojourn in Meshech and Kedar, vassal states of Babylon. The pilgrim expresses his pain at the culture from which he is coming out, a people who do not desire shalom but only war.

Psalm 121. Pilgrims on the road need protection, and they find it in the one who is creator, guardian of Israel, guardian at all times, and guardian eternally.

Psalm 122. Pilgrims rejoice as they see, either in person or with spiritual eyes, their beloved Jerusalem which is as real as a person to them.

Psalm 123. Pilgrims are moving away from the world’s contempt to the mercy, grace, and favor of their master.

Psalm 124. Pilgrims give thanks for their deliverer.

Psalm 125. Pilgrims find in Jerusalem a metaphor for the refuge they find in God.

Psalm 126. Pilgrims find their fortunes restored, like a dream fulfilled, like a desert stream renewed by rain, or like a bountiful harvest at the end of a long growing season.

Psalm 127. Pilgrims depend on God. The fruitfulness of their work depends on him and the fruitfulness of their family depends on him.

Psalm 128. Pilgrims will be blessed by God. Their work will be blessed and their family will be blessed. The blessing will come to those who fear the Lord.

Psalm 129. Pilgrims have a painful past but are preserved in the present and can pray for the future that God will rightly judge the world.

Psalm 130. Pilgrims find forgiveness as they cry out to God in brokenness, confess their sin, wait for God, and hope in him because of his steadfast love.

Psalm 131. Pilgrims can be content in their circumstances and confident in their hope, just as a maturing child trusts in its mother.

Psalm 132. Pilgrims will find the place God has made for them, just as David and Zion were bound together. Because of God’s promise to David, Zion was blessed. Because of God’s desire for Zion, David was blessed. Pilgrims will find a similar blessing in seeking and finding God’s kingdom.

Psalm 133. Pilgrims find a community of unity that is like the blessing of family.

Psalm 134. Pilgrims go on pilgrimage both to bless God and to be blessed by him.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Psalm 120 – Proverbs 9. Next week I will write about Proverbs 10 – 29. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Psalm 120 – Proverbs 9.

How to build a house: Psalm 127

The God who is there: Psalm 139

The power of praise: Psalm 145

Summing up the Psalms: Psalm 146

Don’t be a fool! Proverbs 1

About adultery: Proverbs 5-6

Lady Wisdom: Proverbs 8-9

Praise God! Hallelujah! Psalms 96-119

6943471168_84b977f3bc_z

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

We give thanks to God for his actions, but our praise exalts his character. Embedded in this week’s reading are many psalms of praise including the Hallel psalms, numbers 113-118. The Hallel (meaning praise) was recited by Jews celebrating the great feast days in Biblical times and through the ages since then. The Hallel was probably the song Jesus and the disciples sang at the Last Supper. Andrew Bonar wrote that these psalms “all sing of God the redeemer, in some aspect of his redeeming character.”

Psalm 113. God is celebrated for his transcendence (“his glory above the heavens”) and for his eminence (“who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”). Most of all, he is exalted for his grace, lifting the poor and needy and making the childless woman a mother.

Psalm 114. God’s creative power is so glorious that the earth trembles at his presence as he turns rock into water and creates a sanctuary for the Israelites out of the land of Canaan.

Psalm 115. God, who does whatever he pleases, is contrasted with the blind, deaf, and dumb idols of the world. God is powerful, and so able to help us, but he is also loving, and therefore willing to help us. Let us then trust him, for he blesses those who fear him.

Psalm 116. God is gracious and compassionate, rescuing those who face a variety of dangers. Death, trouble, sorrow, helplessness, and stumbling are specific threats from which the psalmist has been redeemed. Because God’s actions are so prominent and memorable, the psalm moves from praise and pleading (“Yahweh, save me!”) to thanksgiving and back to praise.

Psalm 117. The shortest psalm focuses with precision on two of God’s greatest attributes: his love for us and his eternal faithfulness.

Psalm 118.  The final Hallel psalm was, according to Ryland, “partially used at the time when Messiah…was received with triumph and acclamation into Jerusalem” (verse 28), and will be fully proclaimed when he returns in glory. Jesus applied to himself the prophecy that the rejected stone would become the cornerstone (Matthew 21:42). The psalm as a whole is an order of worship and a dramatic reading. The congregation listens as a conquering hero, like David and fulfilled in Jesus, tells how he overcame adversity in the name of the Lord.

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me…

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. Psalm 118:13, 17

The congregation then follows the conquering hero as the gates of the temple, gates of righteousness, are opened for him. Together they proceed to the altar, praising God for his goodness and love. And so our redeemer opens heaven for us through his righteousness that becomes ours when we follow him. Praise him! Hallelujah!

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Psalm 96 – Psalm 119. Next week I will write about Psalm 120 – Proverbs 9. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Psalm 96 – Psalm 119.

True worship: Psalm 96

The OT God is a God of love: Psalm 103

What God is up to: Psalm 107

Genesis to Revelation in one chapter: Psalm 110

God does what he pleases: Psalm 115

The power of God’s word: Psalm 119, Part 1

The Power of God’s word: Psalm 119, part 2