We read chapter 31 today, a remarkable change from what we have been reading before, although things started to change in chapter 30. There is much included here that people suggest is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus and the changes that he brings to the world. Where before Jeremiah had been delivering prophecies about how angry God was with the people, all of a sudden, he is telling how God is going to make a new covenant with them and promises them land and a new spirit. He talks a lot about Ephraim and seems to see him as a rallying cry. Ephraim was a son of Josephs. He says the watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim and say Arise, and let us go to Zion to the Lord our God. This new covenant shall be one where the law is written in the hearts of men and I will be their God and they will be my people. It will be an innate knowledge of each of the people that they are the people of God. One version has God saying they will live by love not by law, because the law is written in their hearts not something they have to learn about. this sounds a little pollyannish after Jeremiah had been so upset about the people. This is of course the prophetic announcement of Christ the messiah who would come to the people.
Matthew Henry in his commentary says “He that scattered Israel, knows where to find them. It is comfortable to observe the goodness of the Lord in the gifts of providence. But our souls are never valuable as gardens, unless watered with the dews of God’s Spirit and grace. A precious promise follows, which will not have full accomplishment except in the heavenly Zion. Let them be satisfied of God’s loving-kindness, and they will be satisfied with it, and desire no more to make them happy. Rachel is represented as rising from her grave, and refusing to be comforted, supposing her offspring rooted out. The murder of the children at Bethlehem, by Herod, Matthew 2:16-18, in some degree fulfilled this prediction, but could not be its full meaning. If we have hope in the end, concerning an eternal inheritance, for ourselves and those belonging to us, all temporal afflictions may be borne, and will be for our good.” I don’t know about this.
Some asked about the map of the tribes of Israel. Here is a version of it.
This whole chapter is about the significance of the land for the Jews. It has been the case since Abraham, Noah, and even Adam. There has always been a covenant that promised land in exchange for obedience. That could be one of the reasons that it was so catastrophic when the Jews were made slaves or carried away from their land. V9 has the promise of the return of the Davidic kingdom. Those were the glory days and rescue would come from the outside. It could also explain why Christ’s coming would be a letdown for the people who were expecting someone to come and restore land to them. It might be helpful here to see what was happening in the days of Jeremiah in the rest of the word. Here is a chart that shows where in time we were. Look for King Nebuchadnezzar.
We read about Jeremiah telling the people they had to submit to their captors. Chuck wondered if that was why there was so little resistance to the Nazis in WWII. It was a strange time for the Jews and there was a high premium for shrewdness among the Jews.
We read from chapter 29 today. It like much of Jeremiah is somewhat strange. There were two main themes today. One was the concept that Jeremiah spoke from God saying that the exiles taken into Babylon were going to be the favored people of God when they return and the remnant who had remained would be afflicted by pestilence and other woes. This remnant who had remained must have continued their evil ways. They were being led by their priests whom Jeremiah labeled as false prophets. This then was the second theme of how to identify false prophets. Starting with verse 24 through 30, Jeremiah labels Shemaiah, the priest a false prophet. It is a somewhat strange piece which could have been clarified if some pronouns had been replaced by the names. It seems that a letter has been sent to Shemaiah talking about the false prophets and saying words to the effect of since Jeremiah has been telling the exiles to get comfortable in their exile, that he should be labeled a false prophet and put in stocks and chains. Zephaniah is reading the letter to Shemaiah about being a false prophet to Jeremiah and this seems strange if Jeremiah wrote the letter in the first place.
It also is interesting that God who has picked a remnant of his people before would choose the people who were taken into exile as His chosen people at this point. I guess that the people who stayed behind had continued in the practices that they had been condemned to being conquered by Babylon in the first place. But with all the pressures of being in exile in a foreign land how these exiles could be the ones to believe in God seems strange. The interpretation clarifies the passages 24-30 in a nice way. It says “This is the message to Shemaiah that you sent letters to all the people in Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah that God has put you in charge of God’s temple and made you responsible for locking up any crazy fellow off the streets who takes it in his head to be a prophet.” Then Jeremiah says in effect why haven’t you put me in stocks if you are sent from God and I am saying something different from your preaching. So Zephaniah read the above letter and Jeremiah says that God sent him to tell people that Shemaiah is preaching lies to you. God didn’t send him. God will punish Shemaiah and his whole family, they will end up with nothing because he has preached rebellion against God. Again note that if you are for God, you will do well, if not you will suffer and have nothing.
Today we read more of Jeremiah. Pastor Mark suggested sections of Chapter 20, 21, and 22. We read about his dealings with Pashur who heard about what Jeremiah was saying and put him in stocks. Jeremiah said that Pashur would from that time be known as ‘Terror on every side.’ Then he talked about the coming conquest of them by King Nebuchadnezzar. He essentially said that God would enable the king of the Babylonians to conquer the king of Judah and carry off the best of the people to work in captivity.
Here is the territory of the Babylonian empire from 606-536 BC.
Nebuchadnezzar constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and he destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem. He is featured in the book of Daniel and mentioned in other books. Nabu is the Babylonian deity of wisdom and the son of the god Marduk. To find out more about Nubuchadnezzar, here is a link in Wikopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebuchadnezzar_II