Faithful Model, Unfaithful People

God’s Word, Man’s Word

Jeremiah 34:1-36:32

 

Though the focus of this less is on the Rechabites and their determination to “Stay True,” the teacher should not miss the opportunity to contrast the infinite difference between a dogged loyalty to a human ordinance, as helpful as it might be, and the determined hostility to the revelation of God. I how many areas of our society and our churches and our lives do we find an infatuation with human learning and wisdom, and inherited traditions, more compelling to out thinking and conduct than we do the Bible.

 

Introduction:  History reveals both great devotion to the Bible and great hostility towards it.  It reveals also that we often feel greater loyalty to human tradition than to divine truth.

I. The People’s Shameful Treatment of their Kinsmen (34:1-22)

A. God’s promises concerning King Zedekiah (vv. 1-7)

1. The Babylonians will destroy Jerusalem by siege and fire (v.1-2).

2. Zedekiah will live and die in exile, but peacefully 3-5 – The sovereignty and the variety of divine providence should amaze us. He would be in the presence of the king of Babylon, have his life preserved, live in peace, and be lamented at his death. In chapter 39, when this is fulfilled, one also sees that after having seen the king of Babylon face to face, and having seen his sons and officials killed,, he sees no more for his eyes are put out.

3. Jeremiah recorded a brief military account of Babylon’s conquest in Judah. His words to Zedekiah came as these things were happening. (vv. 6-7).

B. A violation of God’s word as well as their own vow (vv. 8-22)

1. A release and reclaiming of Hebrew slaves – 8-16; cf. Ex. 21:1-11, Lev. 25:39-55, and Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Having violated the word of God concerning Hebrew slaves, the people, following Zedekiah’s proclamation, had released them in accordance with the Scripture. Having found, however, their lives inconvenienced by this release, they managed to re-enslave those that had chosen to accept their freedom [16].

2. God promised to judge Judah for its sinful treatment of slaves (vv. 17-22). The symbol of the covenant, a calf cut in two, pictured the destruction that those taking the covenant took on themselves if they violated it. God, therefore, seeing this double unfaithfulness said “I will make them like the calf they cut in two and passed between its parts.

II. Admirable loyalty to human instruction (35:1-19)

A. God told Jeremiah to offer wine to the Rechabites, 1-5  (see II Kings 10:15-31); As we learn the Rechabites had come to Jerusalem to avoid the danger of the ravaging army of Nebuchadnezzar throughout the countryside. They were living in accordance with the word of Jonadab, son of Rechab.

B. The Rechabites refused because they wanted to honor the vows of their ancestors (vv.6-11).

1. The history of the obedience of the Rechabites (vv. 6-10)

2. The Rechabites reason for entering Jerusalem (v. 11)

C. God commended the Rechabites for their faithfulness (vv. 12-14). Although we can make a case that Jonadab’s advice was excellent in itself, the point of this passage is not that one should avid all consumption of alcoholic beverages. The point is that we have the faithfulness of generations of a family to a stipulation set down by an ancestor. It was a word of wisdom established by human authority and yet had not been violated.

D. God accused the people of Judah of unfaithfulness to the heritage of their fathers (vv. 15-17).

1. God had sent prophets with a message stamped with divine authority. This message called for repentance, for worship of the one true God, and promised peace and safety. They did not listen.

2. He contrasts the obedience of the Rechabites to their human “father” with the disobedience of Judah to the word of the prophets.

3. Yet another reason for the disaster that is coming on them

E. The Lord pledged to bless the Rechabites (vv. 18-19).

III. Jehoikim’s Destruction of the Scroll of Jeremiah (36:1-32) The irony of the construction of the book of Jeremiah to set this chapter, an event that occurred during the reign of Jehoiakim, of immediate and aggressive disobedience and despising of the word of God, immediately after the commendation of the Rechabites for their faithfulness to the word of man.

A. God told Jeremiah to write all of the words the Lord had spoken against Israel and Judah (vv. 1-3).

1. Jeremiah was to record all of God’s prophecies since the time of King Josiah (vv.1-2).

2. God intended these writings to move his people to repentance (v.3).

B. Jeremiah enlisted Baruch to write the words of the prophecy and read the scroll to the people (vv. 4-8).

1. Baruch was to fulfil what Jeremiah was prohibiting from doing

2. Since it was on a fast day, Jeremiah thought that the people might be more susceptible to the necessity of repentance.

3. Again this is done that the disaster prophesied might be averted. The word of God is sent with an open, frank, earnest, and true to call to repentance; both provisions and promises and promises are true. If it is not accompanied with effectual power to produce the result called for, it makes the word no less true. If God leaves the hearers to their own moral capacities and their own heart-propensities, that is exactly what the godless man demands. He wants no “bullying” from God, but to be content with his own free will. When we get the “free will” that we want, the destruction is inevitable.

C. Baruch fulfilled his commission to read the words of the prophecy to the people of Judah (vv. 9-19).

1. Baruch read the scroll in the Temple, near the New Gate, in the chamber of Gemariah, son of Shaphan [2 Kings 22:8-13 (vv. 9-10). Evidently he thought this a safe place.

2. Michaiah, son of Gemariah and grandson of Shaphan, reported Baruch’s activity to King Jehoiakim and the princes of Judah (vv. 11-13). They heard and were fearful.

3. The princes of Judah bid Baruch to read the scroll to them (vv. 14-19). They responded in fear and also knew that they needed to arrange for the protection of Jeremiah and Baruch.

D. King Jehoiakim, contrasted to Josiah, as the scroll was read column by column, Jehoiakimcut the scroll into pieces and cast the fragments in the fire (v. 25).

E. The king ordered the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah (26). The faithful messenger of the word of God must always realize that people will not like those parts that set forth the legitimate anger of God toward our sin. Those parts that set forth human corruption, human rebellion, that call for repentance will inevitably be seen as irrational, judgmental, and unbearable in the opinion of the worldly-minded. The apostles of the New Testament were told that they would face opposition and even death for the sake of the gospel. This attitude of Jehoiakim was duplicated by the Jews that heard Stephen preach in Acts 7.

F. God commanded Jeremiah to write the prophecy on another scroll (vv. 28-32).

1. Jehoiakim under terrible judgment (vv. 27-31).

2. Jeremiah and Baruch obeyed the Lord (v. 32).

3. Scripture is “Graphe” that which is written. The Bible claims its own status as the Word of God. Not only was the original scroll duplicated, but expanded “Many similar words were added to them.”

Observations about the Lesson Passage:

1.        Ungodly men hate the word of God. King Jehoiakim, after four years of ruling Judah, had little patience with Jeremiah’s writings. Certainly, the king must have known of the preaching of the prophet, but the written word seemed to engender particular irritation.

2.        The destruction of the scroll of Baruch did not alter the message God sent to Judah. God’s word is unchangeable and inviolable. Hebrews 4:12, 13; Isaiah 55:6-13. When they re-wrote the scroll the judgments on Jehoiakim personally were added.

3.        Baruch and Jeremiah remained patient and steadfast in their task. The initial manuscript of the scroll may have taken months to produce; nevertheless, when the king destroyed the scroll, these two godly men simply went back to work on a replacement copy. The text gives not the slightest hint of irritation or agitation. They did not retaliate or chafe at the king’s foolish and destructive actions; rather, they just continued to obey God.

4.        The two servants of the Lord left the king in the hands of the Lord. So often, when God’s servants experience hardship and opposition to their work, they may be tempted to grow discouraged or angry. Jeremiah and Baruch gave no indication of such attitudes. They remained faithful to their task, despite the hardships they endured. Moreover, they left their vindication in the hands of the Lord.

 

The next three chapters reveal the mental distress of a pusillanimous man, a king without nerve, without leadership ability, without moral fiber. Contrasst the conflict of Zedekiah with the patience and faithfulness of Jeremiah.

 

 

The Curse of Foxhole Religion

Jeremiah 37-39

 

I                      Standing in the need of Prayer 37:1-5

A       Though he is persistently disobedient Zedekiah requests the intercession of Jeremiah - 1-3;  Zedekiah shows throughout some compulsion to follow what is right, but has no perseverance 34

B        Perhaps he felt the Egyptian interlude meant an opportunity for divine intervention

II                    God Answers the Prayer 37:6-10

A       Egypt will be defeated

B        Babylon will return

C        Babylon will conquer Jerusalem – reiterates 34:2, 3

III                  Jeremiah Falsely Accused  11-16

A       During the Egyptian interlude Jeremiah sought to go to Benjamin to obtain some land

B        He is accused and arrested by Irijah in spite of protests of innocence

C        The officials beat him and put him in a dungeon for many days

IV                  Zedekiah’s Desperate Desire to hear a word of reprieve 17-21

A       Zedekiah has him released in order to hear some word from God, but the message has not changed

B        Jeremiah questions the king concerning his treatment, who has told him the truth, and asks where all the false prophets are now  18, 19

C        Jeremiah requests that he not be put back in the cell in the house of Jonathan

D        Zedekiah honors this request and provides food for Jeremiah

V                    Zedekiah Releases Jeremiah to Executors 38:1-6

A       Several leading officials blame Jeremiah for dispiriting the people the people through his message

B        They say this is worthy of death and Zedekiah releases Jeremiah to them – a show of acknowledged weakness – 4, 5

C        They put him into a cistern where he would slowly sink in mud and suffer a miserable death

VI                  Ebed-melech Rescues Jeremiah with Zedekiah’s permission 38:7-13

A       An Ethiopian intercedes with Zedekiah to rescue Jeremiah

B        Zedekiah gives permission and provides men

C        Ebed-melech lifts Jeremiah from the mire and he was returned to the court of the guard house

VII                Zedekiah interviews Jeremiah 38:14-28

A       Zedekiah still is desperate for some word of God’s relenting

B        Jeremiah indicates the futility of giving any information or advice to Zedekiah

C        Jeremiah advises him to surrender and shows him the consequences if he does not – This again shows God’s patience and the sincerity of his announcing the conditions 17, 20; If Zedekian had done as Jeremiah said, then he would not have seen his sons killed and his nobles killed. They would have been spared.

D        Zedekiah shows he is a man of fear

1         He fears the Jewish deserters among the Chaldeans, and Jeremiah assures him that they will cause him no harm.

2         Rather than personally take responsibility for Jeremiah’s, he arranges for Jeremiah to achieve his own safety through mental reservation [38:26, 27]

VIII              Jerusalem overcome and burned – chapter 39 cf 2 Kings 25:1-12

A       The capture of Zedekiah and the exile of the people

1. The wall is breached and the Officials of Babylon come into the city.

2. Zedekiah seeks to escape, but is captured by the Babylonian army.

3. They bring him before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah for sentencing.

4. Zedekiah’s sons and officials are slaughtered and then his eyes are put out. He has seen the king, his own life has been spared, and he will die naturally in Babylon. His disobedience, however, cost him the lives of his sons and his officials.

 

B        Protection of Jeremiah – Nebuchadnezzar deals more kindly with him than Zedekiah had dealt with him

C        The Safety of Ebed-melech – because he has trusted in the Lord, he will be kept safe.

IX                  Applications

A       The Bible gives a coherent picture from start to finish of God’s dealings with the fallen world and the manner in which he will bring redemption: Deut 28:1, 2; 15, 36, 37, 45-50, 54-57; 29:1-4

B        A Promise of safety does not mean freedom from worldly opposition; rather love of the triune God, his Word, his provisions of redemption means hatred from the world; but the satisfaction that one receives comes from the reality that his affections are place on that which cannot be shaken.

C        The hardness of the human heart is such that even under the clearest word, reinforced by the most extreme threats, carried out in the most forceful manner it will not repent

D        The nations will obey the Lord and be found His in the day of judgment. Ebed-melech, the rescuer of Jeremiah from the pit was an Ethiopian, and was spared because of his trust in the triune Jehovah.