Friday, November 04, 2016

Jeremiah chapter 1

What and who was he?  He wasn’t a bullfrog.  

·      A prophet living at the end of the kingdom in Judah and into the Babylonian captivity
·      A contemporary of Daniel, although they do not acknowledge each other much.  In Daniel 9:2 Daniel refers to one of his prophecies about the length of the captivity. 
·      In the priestly line by family inheritance, so he had connections to the temple and spoke about it a lot. But he wasn’t a priest. 
·      A resident of Anathoth, near the desert and in an area where almond trees grew. 
·      An emotional person.  Weeping prophet
·      A prophet in a bad situation.  He had to deliver a message that went totally against Jewish patriotism and nationalism and desire to rebel against their captors. 
·      The man responsible for two books
·      A kidnap victim
·      A prophet mentioned in the book of Matthew three times, all with emphasis on judgment or sorrow  
·      A user of drama—kind of weird

Think what it would be like if Russia held us in captivity for 70 years, but during the time another country, such as China, conquered Russia.  The only difference is that we had been told for hundreds of years that this was going to happen if we didn’t change our ways and make God Lord of our lives rather than false idols, self, pleasure, and pride.

This is foreign to us because we live in a big, powerful nation.  In Yoka’s family’s historical memory, they would have a stronger sense of it, being held by another nation of conquerors. 

The book of Jeremiah is interesting but complex.  It is not in chronological order, for example.  In two weeks I am going to try to give you a sense of who Jeremiah was, his main ministry, and what it means for us. 

1:1:  Why land of Benjamin? Wasn’t Judah the only one left?  Anathoth was on the edge of the desert. 
He started his ministry in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah, which allows us historical accuracy.  It is interesting that the more we learn, the more the Bible is confirmed.  That would be about 626 BC and his ministry went on until well past 586 B.C.

1:4-8  You can’t argue with God.  Much like Moses, he puts up reasons; I am too young to take on the mantle of prophet.  We don’t know how old he is.  God’s answer:  I know you better than you know yourself, and always have.  “Know” and “chose” is the same Hebrew word. 
Notice he is to be a prophet to the nations, not just Judah.
When Jeremiah says “I am a youth,” God does not respond to that.  He doesn’t say, “No, you are 25, grow up.”  He gets to the root of it, fear.  The job is bigger than you, Jeremiah.  No, you aren’t capable of what I am going to ask of you, not on your own.  That’s not the point.  No one is really capable of spiritual work. 

1:9-ff.  What is Jeremiah’s commission? 
·      To destroy, and build up—delivery a message of judgment and redemption.  This is very much what our pastor is preaching on in Zephaniah.
·      To use metaphors and pictures to communicate. 
·      To stand up against the powerful and not be prevailed upon.  It will be hard. 

Take aways so far: 
1.     Many take this as about abortion.  I don’t think it really is directly; I am pretty sure Jeremiah didn’t say when he heard this, “Oh, this is about abortion.”  The fact that the Bible teaches about abortion is all the way through the Word, not just in a couple of proof texts.  If you understand the Bible as a whole, it is clearly pro-life. 
a.     we are made in the image of God; our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.
b.     Intentional killing of innocent life outside of warfare is murder and greatly punishable
c.      There is no distinction between life in the womb and out of it, any stages; all stages are valuable.  All lives matter.  The Old Testament law had a strong penalty for a someone who caused a woman to miscarriage, whether intentional or not.  The idea of ending a pregnancy by choice doesn’t appear in the Old Testament with the Jewish people; they wanted to have large families.  That was a sign of blessing.
d.     The sovereignty of God doctrine works against the argument of an unwanted child (rhetoric of pro-choice movement.)  A Christian doesn’t get to say a child was a mistake.  A surprise maybe, but never a mistake. 
e.     The history of the Jewish people and the early church argue against abortion.  It was common to kill babies in Rome and Greece if they were sickly or female, mostly by abandonment. The Greeks wanted to control population and the Romans wanted strong men for war.  All the records of Jewish history and the early church say that they tried to save babies and honor childbirth.  That was one thing the early church was known for.   

2.     God loved the Jews and treated them as his special people, but not as an end in themselves.  They were also supposed to be a conduit to portray God’s law, power, one-ness, love, mercy to the world.  The church is the same way.  We have an inward, upward, and outward mission.

3.     We get to do unpopular tasks.   Jeremiah’s ministry was uphill.  From the very beginning he was admonishing the people for their shallowness.  During the reign of Josiah, Josiah found the Law in the Temple and had it brought back before the people.  He was a good king and led reforms to get rid of the idolatry.  But Jeremiah saw it was superficial, which was shown in the fact that the people went right back to it after Josiah died in battle (rather dramatic ending) with Egypt.  Even during Jeremiah’s time, he was saying “Don’t let these superficial reforms fool you into thinking your heart is right.”  I am going to get into this aspect of Jeremiah next week.  It is complex because he is essentially saying to the people, you are mistaking past blessings for future and present confirmation that you are ok when you are not.  This is so true of the U.S. right now that I’m stunned.  We fall for the “Make America Great Again” rhetoric that blames politicians and elites without looking at our own sin.

4.   Our emotions matter.    God does not dismiss or ignore our emotions.  I really think one of the reasons Jeremiah is in the Bible is because of his heart for what his people were going through.  He is called the weeping prophet for a reason.

5.     Ultimately, our ability to do a spiritual work is not about our abilities.  Working in a secular job, I have to deal with people who are more focused on their innate abilities.  And we do have those and they are important and useful.  Our students take a test called StrengthQuest.  It is from the Gallup poll organization, and it is pretty neat and very valid from a scientific point of view.  But it doesn’t tell students what their life work should be, only the kind of things they would be good at. 

But, work for God is beyond our abilities and can’t be done by our abilities alone.  One of these days I am going to get this.  I see so many examples in my own life that it scares me, but I won’t get into that.  Basically, I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone.  I know what I am good at, so I will stick with that, despite what God commands me to do, which might be beyond my “skill set.”  Example, working with the English as Second Language ministry. 

In Jeremiah’s case, he considered his youth to be the problem in his “Skill set.”  We might be the opposite; our seniority might be an impediment.  I admit to this, especially since I was having so much fatigue and neuralgia for a couple of months, which is better now but of course, might return.  Paul told Timothy, Let no one despise your youth, and to the older people he gave instructions that would say, You don’t get to give up on ministry because of your age.  For example, he writes in Titus 2:2, Let the older women teach the younger.”  Let no one, especially yourselves, despise your age at any stage.


fourkid said...

I recently did a study of Jeremiah as well. One of the most amazing things to me (this time through) was that at the end Jeremiah chose to stay with the rebellious group of people that leave Israel even though he clearly saw this was the wrong direction for those people. He loved them so much he went with them. Though unknown from Scripture - I think he continued to have hope that he could turn some back to follow God's message to remain in the land. And equally amazing - his devoted secretary went with him. We never hear anything further of their fate. I wonder - would I love others so much that I would follow them into known danger to try to win them back? Or would I just say, I told you so and good luck and good riddance?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Jeremiah is a complicated book and requires some deep study, knowledge of history, and a lot of cross referencing, since some of it intersects with 2 Kings and Lamentations, and even Daniel. But it's worth it. I am afraid I would fall in the good riddance category. Jeremiah wasn't called the weeping prophet for not caring about people!

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