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Oct 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 24-28 – 10/29/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome, RefleXion Community.         The Lord is with you!

Have you read about the 32,000-year-old seeds found in Siberia that are now growing, blooming, and are themselves seed-bearing?  And squirrels had something to do with this.  The story begins in 2007, when a team of scientists recovered the frozen seeds. They were buried 125 feet beneath the Siberian permafrost. The discovery was made while the team was investigating the burrows of ancient squirrels. The squirrels’ burrowing techniques had perfectly sealed the fruit and seeds from the elements.  The burrows of hay and animal fur were a natural cryobank.  Seeds are amazing, aren’t they?

It got me thinking about what scripture says about seeds starting in Genesis–plants yielding seed, fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, and the seed of a woman.  There are several verses about seeds in Jeremiah, by the way.  My very favorite passage is in 1 Corinthians 15, and I wanted to remind all of us about the seed we carry, the seed that’s been planted in us, and our resurrection bodies.  Forgive me for just reading a bit of that chapter today, but, oh, please read it all for yourself! 

1 Cor. 15,  The Message version, begins in v. 35 this way as Paul is preaching to the Corinthians:  Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?”  If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different. 

Paul continues–This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body – but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural – same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

This is what I’ve been reflecting on this week.  Let us be in wonder about these things which are too marvelous for words.   Will you pray with me?

O Lord, how gracious you are to us.  We need you now more than ever.  Thank you for being near.  As we welcome your Spirit this morning, we ask that we be enabled to receive all that you have for us.  Prepare our hearts in this time of quiet.  Still our minds.  Come and remind us that our resurrection has already begun, though not yet complete.  We have come together to hear from you and to allow you to prepare us for glory.  Amen

After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the craftsmen, and the metal workers, and had brought them to Babylon, the LORD showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the LORD. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. And the LORD said to me, “What do you see Jeremiah?” I said, ther good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten. (Please read the entire passage.) Jeremiah 24:1-10

Intro: One thing we cannot say about prophecies of Jeremiah

We cannot say God was silent –he did not sit back and watch passively,
– as his people destroyed their religion, their nation and themselves
• Jeremiah says God rose early to send all his prophets (Jer. 25:4)
◦ in the Old Testament, to rise early signifies eagerness, a compelling energy
• God eagerly sent his word to his people
◦ they would have heard him if there were equally eager to listen
– but we also notice, God had a funny way of speaking at times
• for instance, the chapter I read begins with two baskets of figs
◦ we can’t help but wonder, Where is God going with this?
• this is not unusual, but how God spoke frequently to his prophets
◦ he begins by showing the prophet a vision, then asks “What do you see?”
◦ the message was in the object or scene, which God used for its symbolic value
I spoke to the prophets;
it was I who multiplied visions,
and through the prophets gave parables (Hos. 12:10)

Matthew quotes a collection of Jesus’ parables, and at the end explains,
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world” (Mt. 13:34-35)
– Jesus doesn’t use many parables in John’s gospel
• instead we find “hard sayings”–i.e., ideas difficult to grasp
◦ he later admitted to his disciples that he had not spoken plainly to them, but in “figures of speech”
◦ Jesus would use familiar words, but they did not mean what we assume (“birth,” “water,” “bread,” “vine”)
• Evangelicals seem to prefer learning doctrine over parables
◦ but I think literalness is overrated
◦ symbolic use of words creates space for greater meaning
– symbols and metaphors call attention to themselves
• they work our brains differently than reading and memorizing
• quite naturally working out symbol or parable becomes a spiritual exercise
◦ the spiritual truth and reality God wants to reveal to us, but that we could not understand rationally

In chapters 24-28 there are three prophetic dramas involving “stage props”

Two of the props are not physical, but found in visions shown to Jeremiah
– the third is a literal contraption God had Jeremiah construct
first: two baskets of figs – as a side note, tov and rah are the same words used in Genesis 2
◦ planted in Eden was the tree of knowledge of tov and rah (“evil” does not always refer to moral wickedness)
◦ the good figs represented the people who did God’s will and surrendered to the Babylonian army
the bad represented those who resisted God’s will and remained in Jerusalem to fight the Babylonians
second: a cup of wine, filled with God’s wrath
Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them Jeremiah 25:15-16
◦ about 17 nations are listed in this chapter that were eventually conquered by Babylon
◦ their drunk-like behavior explains why they were disoriented, weak, and unable to defend themselves
third: Jeremiah was to make and wear a yoke
Make yourself straps and yoke bars, and put them on you neck Jeremiah 27:2
◦ again, Judah and the surrounding nations were warned of Babylon’s coming conquests
◦ each nation had a choice: resistance and be destroyed or peaceful surrender
if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation . . . declares the LORD . . . . But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave in its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the LORD Jeremiah 27:8 & 11
– there’s more to this story in chapter 18
• another prophet, Hananiah, shows up with a prediction that contradicts what Jeremiah proclaimed
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon Jeremiah 28:2-3
Jeremiah’s response: “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD make the words that you have prophesied come true . . . . Jeremiah 28:5-9
◦ it didn’t end there
Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. . . . But Jeremiah the prophet went his way Jeremiah 28:10-11
◦ in other words, Jeremiah had no immediate comeback
• Jeremiah was the prophet who brought bad news
◦ Hananiah was telling the people what they wanted to hear
◦ how could Jeremiah compete with the man of the hour?
– in the summer of 2000, after meditating on this passage, I wrote to myself:
“Expect to lose heart at times. Flat-out lies will be published as ‘God’s word.’ These lies will gain popularity, because they will affirm what people want to believe. Millions will line-up to buy the lie. Perhaps you will be overwhelmed by the temporary success of the lie, and like Jeremiah you will walk away with nothing to say. The lying prophet will win the public’s ear. Like Jeremiah, you won’t be able to compete with that. Keep in mind that your objective is not popularity, but speak the truth of God’s word with integrity. Make sure you do that and leave the results with God.”
Jeremiah 23:28, “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully . . . .”
• later, God sent Jeremiah to Hananiah with a personal message
◦ first, You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron (Jer. 28:13)
◦ second, “Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die . . . .” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died (Jer. 28:15-17)
(Previously, when other prophets predicted that the vessels from the temple that Babylon had already looted and taken to their land, would “shortly be brought back from Babylon.” Jeremiah told the people these prophets were lying to them and suggested, “If they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, then let them intercede with the LORD of hosts, that the vessels that are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon–Jer. 27:16-18. As it turned out, everything Jeremiah mentions was plundered and nothing was returned for seventy years.)
– the last verse of chapter 28 tells us, “In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.”

So far, I haven’t drawn anything from chapter 26

There is a different image presented here–and we’ve seen it before
– it is a barren landscape where Israel’s first temple had been built
Shiloh was now an image branded on Israel’s heart and mind
◦ it symbolized God’s rejection and abandonment of his people and their sacred shrine
◦ it stood for what their past sin had cost them
• hundreds of years later, Jeremiah stands in courts of new temple and announced:
“Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me [and to] the words of my servants the prophets . . . then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth” Jeremiah 26:4-6
– this message was so shocking and offensive, that
the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die!” (Jer. 26:8)
• and they would have killed him too if others had not intervened
• images we hold dear or sacred are capable of stirring up powerful feelings and reactions
◦ of course, that’s one reason why God speaks to us through symbols

Our brains do not process parables the same way as lectures

Think of how you read a technical manual and read a novel
– a lecture or manual requires more activity in the brain’s left hemisphere
• a parable or novel involves more of the brain’s right hemispheric activity
◦ that’s because as we read we’re seeing pictures, not just words
• we don’t notice everything that parables manage to slip into our mind
◦ some details lie on the periphery of our focused attention
◦ so the benefit of the analogy is not always immediate
– if parables were Jesus’ preferred form of communication,
• it might be helpful for us to understand what parables do

Parables communicate paradigms–i.e., a mental model of reality
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come (Mk. 4:26-29)
– what are the elements here?
• a deliberate action – an invisible process – tangible results
◦ this is a pattern that the parable plants in our brain
• the parable gives us, not just aa new perspective, but a new way of seeing
The pattern within the parable stays with us
– one day we come to situation where we recognize the pattern (whether or not we remember the parable)
• only this time, we do not react in our usual programmed way
• instead, the pattern creates awareness of other dimensions of our experience
◦ now we have options and freedom to choose our response
A power of parables, is that they lead us to discovery
what we discover for ourselves, we own – it stays with us
Frequently a parable requires time to work through it
– we may realize there’s more than one layer of meaning in it
Jesus’ parables open windows to the kingdom of God
– once God’s word gets in us, it has a life of its own
(see the parable of the seed and the soils, Mt. 13:3-9 & 18-23)
Jesus’ parables open our eyes to our true self, our spiritual self
– we see both the false self and the true self reflected in his parables (e.g., Mt. 7:24-27)

Conclusion: I encourage you to spend time in parables this week

I am adapting the following quote from Arthur Deikman, “[Parables] may be more practical for most people than meditation because they address behavior in everyday life where wisdom must be applied and tested.”
So if you find it difficult to sit silently in God’s presence, holding your attention on him,
it may be that soaking your heart and mind in the parables is better suited to you
When it comes to spending quality time in the parables,
“to the one who has, more will be given and [they] will have an abundance” (Mt. 13:12

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