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Jeremiah notes by Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1040: Thursday 24th December 2015: Jeremiah 25:15-38: Sobering truth.

 Jeremiah 25:15-38: Sobering truth.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’The nation was deaf to God’s Word (vv.4, 7, 8), but that Word would be fulfilled, not only to Israel, but to all the nations to which God sent it by His prophet. God is long-suffering toward disobedient people and gives them many opportunities for repentance, but eventually He must act. He will be like a host who makes his guests drunk (vv.15-29), a lion that attacks the flock (vv.30-31, 34-38), a whirlwind that sweeps across the nation and destroys it (vv.32-33).’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, pp.514,515.

Judgment begins at the house of God (29; see 1 Peter 4:17) with the people of God. But it doesn’t stop there. The sobering truth is that there is going to be a worldwide judgment, and how terrible it will be. These verses point repeatedly to this universal reality.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed: ‘’Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’’ (Luke 22:42). In that moment He knew the contents of the ‘cup’; what was in it and what it would bring to Him. Was He not God? Had He not spoken these words in the first place? That ‘’cup of the wine of wrath’’ has a ‘sharp’ taste. It is effectively drinking a sword. It brings death (16, 27; see also 33). But in the case of Jesus, drinking the cup didn’t end with His ‘’fall’’ (27). Afterwards, unlike anyone else who drank from the cup, He rose, forever. The resurrection of Christ shows that God the Father has accepted His work on our behalf. This is why Jesus came into the world at Christmas. He was born to die. He took our place on the cross, drinking to the dregs the cup of God’s wrath against sin. Rightly speaking it should have been put to our lips. But Jesus took it for us. If we trust Him and His work on our behalf; if we receive what He has done for us, we too will rise with Him to eternal life.

Here are two other significant points from today’s reading:

  • Prophets (and preachers) are people under orders (15, 17). We do what we are told, go where we are sent and say what we are given. This is ministry;
  • Kings and rulers serve a higher authority (17-26). However great and powerful they may seem to us, they are under the sovereignty of Almighty God.

Prayer: ‘’Oh make me understand it, help me to take it in, what it meant to you, the Holy One, to bear away my sin.

Daily Bible thoughts 1032: Monday 14th December 2015: Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.

 Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah received the vision described in this chapter shortly after King Jehoiachin and other leading citizens of Jerusalem (including the prophet Ezekiel) had been carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14); the year was 597 B.C., eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose of this vision of the good and the bad figs was to show that those who were carried into exile (the good figs) were far better off than those who stayed in Jerusalem (the bad figs): the exiles would survive, prosper, and eventually return to Judah; those who stayed in Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the city.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1110.

It’s important to understand that both groups – those taken into exile, and those left behind were ‘bad’, in the sense that both had violated God’s Covenant, and both were being punished. It was by the grace of God alone that the exiles were chosen to survive and become a remnant, from which, in due time, the Messiah would come. The irony is that those who remained in Jerusalem thought they were the lucky ones. They were soon to find out otherwise.

God’s purpose in sending the exiles away was to purify them; to cleanse, and cure them of idolatry (6, 7). The ultimate fulfilment of the seventh verse would come in the inauguration of the ‘’new covenant’’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34), when the Holy Spirit came to live in believers following Christ’s death on the cross. He is the One who makes it possible to joyfully obey God’s law.

So it is not the case that the exiles were inherently good, and that those who remained in Jerusalem were intrinsically bad. The point at issue concerns the treatment they were going to receive, and this comes out in The Message: ‘’The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment…But like rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.’’ Good figs have a useful purpose and are treated accordingly; whereas bad figs are useless, and get the treatment they deserve.

This passage reminds me that there is coming a day of judgment, which will be a day of division. People will experience different eternal destinies according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. C.S. Lewis put it well. He said that in the final analysis there will only be two types of people in the world: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer: In the light of the final judgment, help me to live seriously. Strengthen me to hold out Jesus to everyone I can. He is the only Saviour of the world.


Daily Bible thoughts 1023: Tuesday 1st December 2015: Jeremiah 23:1-8: True Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:1-8: True Shepherds

We have seen how chapter 22 is a kind of ‘rogue’s gallery’ of the final kings of Judah. In the Old Testament kings were shepherds. That’s how they were regarded. They were to love the people and lead them with compassion, tenderness and care. All the kings mentioned in the 22nd chapter, apart from Josiah, were bad shepherds. God was going to punish them for what they had done, and He prophesied a new day of shepherd care with different shepherd leaders, but ultimately the coming of the Messiah Himself, the ‘’good shepherd’’ (John 10).

So chapter 23 needs to be seen in contrast with chapter 22. This section of it:

  • Shows how much the quality of shepherding matters to God – He who is Himself the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 23);
  • Challenges all leaders about how they shepherd the flock of God. We cannot do this carelessly or lightly;
  • Looks forward to a new and greater ‘exodus’ from Babylon and other lands. God’s dispersed people will come home. Even in the middle of messages of judgment, we can hold on to this note of hope;
  • Anticipates the coming of the Messiah. Matthew Henry points out that there aren’t as many Messianic predictions in Jeremiah as there are in Isaiah, but this is certainly one of them. Jeconiah may not have had sons to succeed him on the throne, but David’s line would continue; the promises made to David would be fulfilled. However bleak things may look, you can hold on to God’s Word. It will be fulfilled.

Prayer: Lord Jesus be my shepherd all the days of my life.


Daily Bible thoughts 1017: Monday 23rd November 2015: Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.

Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Let it be our care that we die in Christ, and then it will be well with us, whenever we die, though it should be in a far country.’’ Matthew Henry.

I note three things in this final section:

The seriousness of sin: God knew about this man’s sin and he was going to do something about it. Matthew Henry says that the king was going to exchange a crown for chains. In a way, we all do this when we choose the pathway of wrongdoing. We were created in God’s image to rule the earth under Him. But we have sold out to the devil and swapped the diadem for fetters. This king is actually ‘’Jehoiachin’’. He was also known as ‘’Jeconiah’’. Again, Henry suggests that his name may be shortened to ‘’Coniah’’ in this passage (as you find in some translations) to indicate that his reign would be. He was on the throne for just three months (2 Kings 24:8-17). The prophecy given to him was fulfilled only a few years later (2 Kings 24:15). This king the people may well have idolized as their leader quickly came to disappoint, and even to be despised. All our ‘idols’ will let us down. Jehoiachin would be found to be ‘’a leaky bucket, a rusted-out pail good for nothing…a man who will never amount to anything…’’ The Message.

The fact that sin separates: There is a picture of Hell here, and we have seen this point previously in the chapter. The language used is very strong; words like ‘’tear’’ (24, ESV), ‘’hurl’ and ‘’hurled’’ (26, 28). It’s the terminology of ferocity. Jeconiah was made to be near and dear to God, symbolised by the signet ring’’ on His ‘’right hand’’ (24, see Haggai 2:23). He was created to be close to God and to rule the nation out of that relationship with Him. But sin brings a massive rupture. There is something terribly final about the words in (27): ‘’You’ll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you’ll never get home again.’’ The Message (see Luke 16:19-31, and especially 26). Hell is like this, as we have noted before. It is to be exiled from our true ‘Home’ with no hope of return. It is eternal separation from the God we were created to know and love and serve. It is the ultimate in ‘homesickness.’

The surety of God’s purposes: ‘’Jehoiachin lived for many years in exile in Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Though he had children, none of them became king of Judah (verse 30). Jehoiachin was a direct ancestor of Jesus (1 Chronicles 3:17; Matthew 1:12); in Matthew he is called Jeconiah. In Hebrew, both names mean, ‘’The Lord establishes.’’ Jehoiachin was the last of Judah’s kings to die; with his death the throne of David became extinct – ‘’dis-established’’! Yet that is not the last word. The Lord was going to establish a new King on David’s throne, the Messiah Jesus Christ. And it is to this Messiah that Jeremiah turns as he begins the next chapter.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1107.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for Jesus – and He is not a disappointment.

Daily Bible thoughts 1015: Thursday 19th November 2015: Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?

Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?
As we work through this ‘rogues gallery’ of the final kings of Judah, we come now to ‘’Jehoiakim’’ (18), who was one of that territory’s most evil kings (2 Kings 23:36, 37; 24:1-7). Josiah was his father and Shallum his brother. Jehoiakim only became king after his brother Shallum was exiled (2 Kings 23:34).
‘’Jehoiakim wasn’t much different from some modern politicians who profit from dishonest gain while they ignore the cries of the poor and needy.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.1236.
Here are some observations based on the text:
Loving justice (13): God is grieved when the poor are oppressed by the rich and powerful. One of Jehoiakim’s evil deeds was to make his countrymen work without pay (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15). He was effectively reducing his brothers to slavery. We need to take care that we do not become complicit in any form of injustice.
True nobility (15, 16): What is it that makes a person noble? It has nothing to do with birth or the blood flowing in their veins. Not really. It has everything to do with character. Leadership is fundamentally about who you are. Jehoiakim’s ‘apple’ fell very far from Josiah’s ‘tree’. It was a case of ‘like father, unlike son’. Josiah lived comfortably, but fairly, caring about matters of justice. True religion considers the poor and needy (see James 1: 27). As someone said, knowing God and doing His will are inseparable. ‘’So that makes you a king-living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn’t he? He did what was right and treated people fairly. And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn’t this what it means to know me?…But you’re blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself. Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims.’’ The Message.
Sheer folly (18): You can be a great person in the eyes of the world, but it’s only for a short time. Then what? Will it be seen that you were an ‘ass’ so to speak; that you wasted your life? ‘’They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral, drag him out of the city and dump him.’’ The Message. Just recently, a famous (or infamous/notorious ) lady died. She was well-known for devoting her life to an overtly sinful business, and no doubt made a lot of money from it. These words of mine are not intended to judge her. Only God can know the true state of her soul. But I couldn’t help but reflect on the tragedy of a life given over to the vanity and folly of sin. The words spoken about Jehoiakim (19) say that he would have no burial. Instead his body would be left exposed on the ground (see Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 36:30.This point is not contradicted by 2 Kings 24:6 by the way. The statement there simply means that he died. No burial is mentioned.) How tragic when someone dies and it can be said: ‘’Nobody will shed tears over him.’’ The Message.
Prayer: ‘’Teach me to live, that I may dread, the grave as little as my bed.’’ Bishop Thomas Ken.

Daily Bible thoughts 1006: Friday 6th November 2015: Jeremiah 21: Courageous living.

 Jeremiah 21: Courageous living. (please click here for todays passage)

‘’The first twenty chapters of Jeremiah have come in roughly chronological order; the remaining chapters are arranged on the basis of subject matter rather than chronology. Here in this chapter, Jeremiah jumps forward to the ninth year of the reign of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah. Zedekiah had foolishly rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and now Babylon was attacking Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 24:18-20; 25:1; Jeremiah 52:1-4). Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1105.

That’s a helpful introduction to this chapter and the remainder of the Book. I want to highlight three points:

Courage (1-7): It takes courage to tell people what you know they will not want to hear. Jeremiah would be considered a traitor for delivering messages such as these. ‘’But he was not pro-Babylonian, he was pro-Yahweh, and he saw clearly that Jerusalem’s only recourse was to submit to God’s righteous chastisement.’’ A.E. Cundall. Tom Hale points out that, regrettably, King Zedekiah was more interested in avoiding trouble than in avoiding the sins that caused him trouble. There comes a point where we cannot realistically expect God to answer our prayers if our hearts are set against doing His will. It is thought likely that verses 11-14 were spoken on an earlier occasion when there was still time for repentance. Such messages had been given, and rejected, over and over. They had been met with smug complacency. It was now too late for the desired miracle. Zedekiah (and this is still true of many today) wanted a ‘genie’ who would pop out of the bottle when required and grant him his wishes. At that moment he’d have settled for one. ‘’Maybe GOD will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave.’’ The Message. It wasn’t going to happen; not this time. Jeremiah had to deliver this message, and he needed courage, for the messenger would be ‘shot’.

Consolation (5; see Romans 8:31): It is a terrible thing when God says He is against you. That’s not a ‘boat’ you want to be in. ‘’I’m joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back.’’ The Message. But the consolation I find in this verse lies in the realisation that this can never be true of those who are ‘in Christ’. Paul teaches in Romans 8 that if God is ‘’for us’’ no-one can be against us.

Clarity (8-10): Within the unpopular message handed to Jeremiah to convey, there was nevertheless a ray of hope. It was not exactly what people wanted to hear, but ‘’the way of life and the way of death’’ were made utterly clear. It was not possible for Jerusalem to be saved, but it was the case that the populace, the people, could be saved. They could escape with their lives if they humbled themselves and surrendered. No one could be in any doubt about what they had to do. ‘’Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death. Whoever stays in this city will die – either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You’ll lose everything – but not your life.’’ The Message. This sounds a lot like the message of the gospel which has been entrusted to us. It sets out clear alternatives (Matthew 7:13, 14), and we must communicate it in such a way that people know what they are. Let’s not make a simple message foggy. If people are prepared to lose their own lives for Jesus’ sake, they will then find them.


Daily Bible thoughts 1000: Thursday 29th October 2015: Jeremiah 20:7 – 18: Honest to God.

Jeremiah 20:7 – 18: Honest to God.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

The first six verses of this chapter display something of Jeremiah’s courage in his outer life. He was knocked down, but he got right back up again and carried on, even though he was likely to take more punishment for doing so.

However, the remainder of the chapter pulls back the curtain on his inner life. He paid a high price for his ministry. We see him overwhelmed with anguish and discouragement, saying some things that are hard to hear. For example he expresses the feeling that he wished he’d never been born (14-18). He doesn’t curse his parents (Exodus 21:17), but he does curse the day of his birth. This is a man at rock bottom; just about clinging on by his fingertips. ‘’He should have killed me before I was born, with that womb as my tomb…Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb? Life’s been nothing but trouble and tears, and what’s coming is more of the same.’’ The Message.

‘’Once again, the prophet was bold before men but broken before God ’ Warren W. Wiersbe. Here are three important lessons:

A strong ministry is built on and sustained by a robust inner life. Jeremiah the preacher was also a man of prayer. You will never survive the marathon of Christian ministry without a healthy relationship with God, in which you can be completely honest about your feelings. (It also helps if you’ve got one or two ‘FDF’s’ as John Ortberg calls them: ‘Fully Disclosing Friends’. Is there someone with whom you can open your heart?) Most of all, keep your eyes on Jesus, who persevered through terrible suffering. Look to Him and remember the Cross (Hebrews 12:2,3)

You can be honest with God. I wouldn’t be surprised if you read this and something deep inside said, ‘You can’t say that Jeremiah!’ But clearly you can. You can be honest with God. He knows what you’re thinking and feeling anyway, whether or not you articulate it. Effectively what Jeremiah said to the Lord was that He had over-persuaded him when he called him to be a prophet. He hadn’t realised just how much he would suffer. But in fact God had told him that life would be difficult, while at the same time assuring him that he would not be overcome by these hardships (1:17-19). We can be totally honest with God. We may get some things wrong in what we say about people in His presence, and in what we say about Him. I’m not commending that (and once we know we got it wrong we need to repent), but God allows His servants to talk things out before His throne. What a privilege. Let it all out. ‘’It has often been observed that Jeremiah’s doubts were never expressed in public.’’ A.E. Cundall.

We are complex creatures. Emotions are complex. In these few verses we ride a rollercoaster of feelings with the prophet. One moment he’s saying things like, ‘’You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it. You were too much for me. And now I’m a public joke. They all poke fun at me.’’ The Message. Then he’s affirming that the Lord is with him, and will vindicate him (11, 12) and even singing praise to Him (13; see Acts 16:25). We move from low to high…and then, whoosh, plummet back down again (14-18). Some commentators would say that these verses are out of place and got mixed up in transmission. But I think it is more helpful to say that this is true to life. We experience swings of emotion, and it can all tumble round together in a kind of ‘washing machine’ of prayer. ‘’Faith and doubt can jostle each other in a disorderly way…’’ Gordon McConville: ‘NBC’, p.689.

Prayer: ‘Every cry you are listening, no matter what state my heart is in.’


Daily Bible thoughts 999: Wednesday 28th October 2015: Jeremiah 20:1-6: The rubber prophet!

 Jeremiah 20:1-6: The rubber prophet!(please click here for todays Bible passage)

The saying, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ springs to mind. The person who has to deliver unpalatable truth regularly takes a bullet for it. (It is ironic to think about a preacher of God’s Word being put in stocks, in church, because of faithful preaching! Essentially, that is what you find here.) The preaching of Jeremiah cost him dearly. In these verses he records the first of many experiences of physical abuse at the hands of his enemies. He had been warned about the personal cost of his ministry at his calling (1:19). He had been given the promise that he would not be overcome by his foes, but no guarantee was given that he would not suffer. ‘’Similarly, the Christian is assured of final victory because of the resurrection of Christ – but not of immunity from suffering or opposition.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688. These opening verses of chapter 20 show how much of a stir Jeremiah was creating in the higher echelons of Judean society.’’Passhur’’ seems to have been a kind of priestly policeman, responsible for order in the temple area.

God’s messengers will suffer because of the messages they bring. If you are a preacher and your text is the Bible; if your calling is to say what God says, somewhere along the line you are going to run into trouble. There will be people who hate what you are saying, and who may even hate you. Some will want you out of the way, and there may be those in your path who will actively take steps to remove you. God’s Word is potent. It goes to work on sin and evil. Therefore the devil hates it, and kicks up a fuss, pulling on people’s strings in his counter-attack (Ephesians 6: 12).

God’s messengers need to be resilient. Jeremiah has been characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’, but to my mind he is also the ‘rubber’ prophet, because after this beating he bounced back. In the next section, it is true, we will see something of how this hurt him, but it doesn’t alter the fact that he got back up from the canvas with his fists up, ready for more fighting. But this wasn’t personal animosity; it was rather a refusal to be silenced when he had been entrusted with God’s message. His ‘come back’ must have taken immense courage, because after his release from the stocks (3) he would surely have experienced the temptation to keep his head down. Wasn’t this the reason for the punishment anyway; to cow him into silence? But whatever the temptation he may have felt, he couldn’t help himself (8, 9). The words in him from God were like pent up floodwaters behind a locked door. They just had to burst through. There was no holding them back. He was so brave, because when he spoke again he delivered a personal word to the man who’d had him beaten: ‘’GOD has a new name for you: not Pashhur but Danger-Everywhere, because GOD says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you…’ ‘’ The Message. ‘’Ironically, the one who thought he was guarding the institutions and traditions was doing just the reverse; the temple with its rituals and its wealth, which he was protecting from the disorderly, would soon be no more, and the priesthood an irrelevance in a foreign land. No institution, however good, can be an end in itself; it can be good only if it points forward to the kingdom of God.’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.688.

God’s messengers must remember who is in control. In Jeremiah’s situation it wasn’t ‘’Pashhur’’ or his ‘’friends’’ or any of the other people who hated his message. It wasn’t the Babylonians either. Jeremiah’s God was in control. Look at the repeated ‘’I will’’ in (4, 5). Let’s keep our eyes on the Lord and always remember that He reigns.

‘’Let God take care of the people who create problems for you.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

Daily Bible thoughts 993: Tuesday 20th October 2015: Jeremiah 19: The point of no return.

 Jeremiah 19: The point of no return.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

‘’They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.’’ (15b) The Message.

In this tragic chapter, Jeremiah is told to ‘’buy a clay jar from a potter’’ (1) and then break it in the presence of Judah’s leaders (10) as a sign of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. On this occasion, someone pointed out, he went to the potter’s not as a spectator but as a customer. There is an important difference between the ‘’clay jar’’ of this chapter and the ‘’marred ‘’ pot of the previous chapter (18:4). That was still pliable and could be remoulded; but here the jar was so hardened it could not be remade. There is a time when people can still repent of their sins, but in chapter 19 we have gone beyond that, and we need to remember that in sinning it is possible to reach a point of no return. For Judah it was now too late to be reshaped. The breaking of the clay pot showed that judgment was irrevocable. It was a powerful, ‘shattering’ image, and it spoke volumes. ‘’I’ll smash this people and this city like a man who smashes a clay pot into so many pieces it can never be put together again.’’ The Message. ‘’People with hard hearts and stiff necks (19-15) may be easily broken.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.510.

What was going on here? What had led to such devastation as described in this chapter?

They forsook God (4): That was the root of the problem. They left God behind; or rather they ‘’exchanged’’ Him (Romans 1:23) for other vile gods who demanded despicable things from them (5, 13).

They forsook God’s Word (5): Rejecting God and rejecting His Word are two sides of the same coin. It is tantamount to self-destruction ultimately.

They filled the city with innocent blood (4b): What kind of religion would demand that children be sacrificed in the fire (4, 5)? What sort of gods would desire such a thing? The law absolutely forbade child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21: God foresaw that they would face both the temptation and the opportunity), and King Josiah had tried to put an end to it (2 Kings 23:10; see 21:16 – it was particularly rife in Manasseh’s reign); however the practice started up again after Josiah’s death. We are surely not shocked or surprised that terrible judgment fell on such evil behaviour? So, as a result of all this:

They were going to fall (7; see also 7:30-34): We may make our plans but they are not guaranteed to succeed. Even if they do, we need to realise that the Lord can ‘’ruin’’ them. Any plans we make which are not God-centred are doomed to ultimate failure, and we may find we are the sad recipients of what we did not plan.

‘’We have the spiritual treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor.4:7) so that we might share it with others. A vessel does not manufacture; it only contains and shares. All God asks is that we are clean, empty, and available. He will do the rest.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.510.

We need to understand that if we keep resisting God’s Word, and rejecting His Son Jesus, there will come a point where we are unable to turn.

Prayer: O Merciful God, give me grace to repent while there is still time.

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