Learning from Jeremiah 37-45
37:1-21 - ‘Is there any Word from the Lord?’ - ‘Yes! There is a Word from the Lord’. The Word from the Lord wasn’t exactly what the king wanted to hear - ‘You will be handed over to the king of Babylon’ (17). God was going to bless His people - but they would have to be patient: Things were going to get an awful lot worse before they would get much better! Before their restoration - “I will bring them back and restore them to this place’ - , God’s people faced captivity - ‘They will be taken to Babylon’. There was bad news - a captivity of ‘seventy years’. There was good news - the captivity wouldn’t last forever (27:22; 29:10-11)! God speaks of His blessing - ‘It will certainly come’ - , but He also says, ‘Wait for it’ (Habakkuk 2:3). Let’s listen to all that He says to us - and not ‘only hear what we want to hear’!
38:1-28 - ‘No Surrender’ - Was this the way forward for God’s people? ‘No Surrender’ - What would happen if God’s people adopted this attitude? Jeremiah speaks God’s Word to the people. He calls them to make their choice. They can ‘surrender’ and ‘live’. They can say, ‘No Surrender’ - and face certain death (17-18). Captivity in Babylon would not be easy. They would be heartbroken as they recalled happier times - ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion’. It would be so difficult to keep on praising the Lord - ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:1,4). Life in Babylon would be difficult - but ‘it would not be the end of the world’! They could still look forward to the fulfilment of God’s ‘gracious promise’: ‘I will come to you and bring you back to this place’ (29:10).
39:1-18 - You can take the man out of Babylon, but you can’t take Babylon out of the man! We may have never set foot in the ancient city of Babylon, but we know all about the spirit of Babylon! ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’ (17:9) - This is the spirit of Babylon, ‘the spirit of disobedience’, the spirit which is ‘at work’ in every one of us: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Ephesians 2:2; Romans 3:23). Is there any hope for us? We cannot change ourselves: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (13:23). We can be changed by God. To those who ‘trust’ in Him, the Lord says, ‘I will save you’ (18). God wants to bless you. Put your trust in Him. Let His blessing flow into your heart (17:7).
40:1-16 - ‘The Lord your God pronounced this evil against this place; the Lord has brought it about, and has done as He said. Because you sinned against the Lord, and did not obey His voice, this thing has come upon you’ (3). We hear a great deal today about ‘the feel good factor’. People need to get a good feeling: ‘Give them a pat on the back. Make them feel good about themselves’. There’s not much of a ‘feel good factor’ in Jeremiah’s preaching! The people must have been wondering, ‘Where did they dig him up from? He has nothing good to say about anyone or anything’. We must rise above the sarcasm of those who have no time for the Word of the Lord. We must ask, ‘Where did Jeremiah’s message really come from?’. This is what the Word of the Lord says: ‘The Word came to Jeremiah from the Lord’ (1).
41:1-42:6 - Terrible things were happening! Things were going from bad to worse. ‘What next?’ - The people were wondering where it would all end. What are we to do when everything seems to be getting totally out of control? There is one thing we must never forget. It is the most important thing of all. We must ‘pray to the Lord our God’. We must ask Him to ‘show us the way we should go’. He will ‘show us the thing that we should do’ (42:2-3). It’s time to stop complaining and start praying. ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!... Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer!... Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer!’ (Mission Praise, 746).
42:7-43:7 - ‘Do not go to Egypt’ (19). We may never set foot in the country known as ‘Egypt’ - but the spirit of ‘Egypt’ may be in our hearts: ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him...?’ (Exodus 5:2). ‘Egypt’ is an attitude of the heart. It is an attitude of rebellion against God. We must say ‘No’ to ‘Egypt’. We must say ‘No’ to the spirit of rebellion against God. For God’s people, ‘Egypt’ was a place of slavery, a place from which they needed to be set free by God (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-10). Each of us must choose how we will live. We can remain in the place of slavery - ‘slaves of sin’ - , or we can be ‘obedient from the heart’, stepping out from that place into the place of freedom, ‘the new life of the Spirit’ - ‘`the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 6:17-18; 7:6; 8:2).
43:8-44:14 - ‘The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah’ (43:8). The Lord speaks His Word to those who are prepared to make time for listening to Him. Come to God’s Word, praying that it will be ‘a lamp to your feet and a light to your path’. Come with the prayer, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Word’. See that you ‘live according to His Word’: ‘I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You’ (Psalm 119:105,18,9,11). Pray that God will ‘speak’ to you. ‘Listen’ to what He says to you (1 Samuel 3:10). ‘Say to them, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says...”’ (43:10). Don’t keep God’s Word to yourself. Share His Word. We are not to listen to God without also speaking for Him. We must remember that we cannot really speak for Him unless we are also listening to Him.
44:15-45:5 - ‘Egypt’ was to be a place of punishment. To those who remain in the the place of rebellion, God says, ‘I will punish you in this place’. This is His Word of warning. We don’t need to remain in the place of rebellion and punishment. We can ‘return’ to ‘Judah’, the place of obedience and blessing (28-29). This is not about places we will find on a map of the world. It’s a call to look into the secret places of our hearts. We must ask God to search our hearts. What will He find when He looks into our hearts? Will He find rebellion? Will He find obedience? God wants us to leave the place of rebellion and punishment. He wants us to return to the place of obedience and blessing. ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart!... See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:23-24).