May 10 – Devotion Sharing (Jeremiah 41-45)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Jeremiah 41-45

Key Verse

Jeremiah 45:4-5  The Lord said, “Say this to him: ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord,but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”

God is …

The whole episode with Johanan is so tragic and maddening in a way.  There is that moment of hope when he and “all the people from the least to the greatest” came to Jeremiah asking for guidance and promising obedience to God.  And God answers them in such a reassuring and compassionate way, promising to build them up and to save them from the king of Babylon.  God talks about how he is grieved over the disaster he has inflicted on them and how he wants to restore them.  But once again, the people completely reject God’s words through Jeremiah.

This gives me insight into God’s heart as he carries out his judgment and wrath on his people.  It is not the picture of a raging, power-hungry king, who is simply angry that his subjects do not obey him.  Rather, it is the aching, long-suffering heart of a parent, who suffers rejection after rejection while eagerly hoping for his child to repent so that he can restore him and bless him.  I was struck by how even though God knows what’s in their hearts and that they are planning to reject his words through Jeremiah, still he gives them tender and compassionate promises and repeated warnings about what will happen if they disobey him.  It is a wounded and yet determined father who can’t give up, who still tries to persuade and plead even though he knows the son is so rebellious.

These chapters also give me a picture of how foolish and irrational we can be, as sinners, and what God’s response is to us.  It seems that Johanan and the people just could not trust God’s words because they were suspicious of Baruch and Jeremiah betraying them to the Babylonians, and because they were determined to seek safety in Egypt, where other Jews had fled.  And then in Egypt, when Jeremiah brings God’s warnings to all the Jewish exiles living there about their continued idolatry, they display amazingly revisionist memory and attribute the times they were well off in Jerusalem to the fact that they were engaged in idol worship.  It’s disheartening to say the least to see how the people simply did not learn their lesson and completely disbelieve God’s intentions despite all the warnings, all the prophetic words, and all the difficulties and grief.  How much more tragic and heart wrenching it must be for God.  And yet, it is amazing that God is not completely jaded and disgusted by their repeated offenses.  He continues to persist in trying to get through to them, following the Jewish exiles even into Egypt, still trying to reason with them and show them what their idolatry has led to.

Lessons for me …

I had to marvel once again at God’s persistence and commitment to his people.  It is the same kind of heart that we see in Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians – this kind of long-suffering love despite rejection and offenses.  I realize how God is so often misunderstood.  It’s so wrong to see him as a taskmaster that arbitrarily demands various things from us, or a petty ruler who wants to limit our freedom. That is simply a shallow and mistaken understanding of God and his heart towards us.  In my own Christian life, I need to mature more in understanding and sharing God’s heart that aches for sinners and is so committed to struggling with them, expending so much effort to get them to understand who He is to them and what will lead to a blessed life.  I realize once again that I need to recalibrate my perspective of what is genuine love according to what I see about God’s heart. Genuine love is not about maintaining pleasant and positive feelings; it inevitably involves commitment and striving and suffering in order to lead people to relationship with God and salvation from sin that can be so bewildering and stubbornly foolish.

Chapter 45 is an interesting little chapter that once again gives insight into how narrow my personal perspective can be.  I can totally relate to Baruch, who is groaning and feeling worn out by all that has happened.  And God’s personal message to him is a wakeup call, that life is not about seeking “great things for yourself,” and to understand the much greater reality about what God is doing and what kind of times he lives in. He reminds Baruch that the fact that he is able to live is really due to God’s graciousness towards him.   Like Baruch, my perspective is so instinctively self-centered and at times I feel like I’m “worn out” in my efforts to serve God.  But what I need are times of having my perspective broadened to see what God is doing, how He is contending with so many people that reject him and misunderstand him, how he is holding back true judgment and what our sins truly deserve in order to try to save us.  Against this backdrop of reality, I realize that I really haven’t scratched the surface of sharing in God’s heart and engaging in the kind of love he calls me to.  I need to be brought to the fresh realization that God has been so merciful to me, and that the stakes are much higher than my personal comfort.  God is grieving and struggling over lost people and he calls me to share in his heart.

Submitted by Ben K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Key Verse

42:10-12:

‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I am grieved over the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.  I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’

God Is…

A lot is revealed about God’s heart in God’s command to Johanan and his men in 42:10-12.  What’s interesting here is the amount of reassurance God gives them.  God could have just said, “I command you to stay.”  Instead, we see that God not only commands them to stay but He gives them many words of reassurance: I will build you up, I will plant you and not uproot you, do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, do not be afraid of him, I am with you, I will save you, I will deliver you, I will show you compassion, he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.  It seems God recognizes that what he is asking them to do is scary and will require faith so his answer to their question of what they should do is full of reassurance.  God hopes and wishes for his people to trust him.  God wants them to trust in his heart for them, to trust in his power.  An important aspect of any relationship is trust, and it is no different in our relationship with God. I am reminded of Proverbs 3:5 which says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

What also stood out to me in 42:10-12 is that God admits to grieving over the disaster he has inflicted.  Though it was something that He chose to do, He still grieves over it.  It’s like a loving parent who disciplines his child out of love, but seeing the pain of his child causes the parent to hurt too. God’s discipline isn’t cold hatred or heartless vengeance, but God shares in the pain of his people as he disciplines them.  The picture of God that emerges through Jeremiah is a loving God who wants people to repent and enter into a trusting relationship with Him.

Lessons for me…

Because Ishmael and some men killed Gedaliah (the governor appointed by the king of Babylon), Babylonian soldiers and some Jews, the remnant in Judah are afraid of Babylonian retaliation.  Johanan and company are fearful for their lives so they consult Jeremiah asking him to ask God where they should go and what they should do.  Which country should they run away to?  What’s the best strategy for their survival?  In 42:5-6 they say to Jeremiah:

“May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God…”

However, when Jeremiah tells them what God’s told him, they don’t accept it because it’s not the answer they were looking for.  God tells them to go nowhere, to stay where they are.  From their perspective, this is the least strategic advice because they were convinced that the king of Babylon would destroy them if they stayed.  They were gripped by their fear and so they did not obey God.  Instead of admitting that they were disobeying because lacked faith and were afraid, they attack Jeremiah’s character and cast suspicion on his motives in 43:2-3:

“You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’ But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.”

There are times when I feel like Johanan and company and find it hard to trust God.  I remember when I first started working and got my first meager paycheck, I started to feel anxious about money and career.  I equated money with security because I grew up wealthy but after my father passed away there was financial insecurity and there are a lot of negative feelings associated with not having enough money.  I made more than enough money to get by with my new job, but my insecurity drove me to desire more.  For the most part there wasn’t much tension between serving God and doing my job, but at times when the demands of work and ministry increased at the same time and I felt tired, the thought would cross my mind that if I didn’t have minsitry responsibilities to worry about, I would be able to invest so much more in my career.

During times of anxiety and fear God reassures me through his words much like he addressed the fears of Johanan and his men.  God addresses my issues time and time again through daily devotions and messages, and I am amazed by the constant provision of His words.  When I was struggling with financial anxiety, His words encouraged me to continue to follow Him and to trust him as my only source of security.  Were it not for God’s reassurance through his word, I would not be here at a church plant today nor would I have experienced the joy of seeing God so powerfully at work in our midst and seeing so many precious brothers and sisters come to salvation.

If we believe that God is all-powerful and that He is good, we ought to trust Him.  In 43:10 God calls the king of Babylon “my servant Nebuchadnezzar.”  God calls this incredibly powerful king that was the cause of such great fear for Johanan “my servant.”  I was reminded of Isaiah 40:15:

Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales; 

To God, all the nations are like a drop in a bucket.  I was reminded that God really is this big, and He bigger than all my problems, concerns, and anxieties.  I can be sure that no matter what the issue may be, my trust in God is not misplaced.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I am reminded again that you are a good God with good intentions for me and that you are mighty and powerful.  Please forgive me for my lack of faith and trust in you and for looking towards other things to provide my security and significance.  I thank you for your timely words that reassure me time and time again to trust in you.  And I thank you for all the blessings I have received through trusting in you.  You are indeed a faithful and trustworthy God!  In Jesus name, Amen.

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