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Jan 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 36-45 01/07/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to the RefleXion Community!          The Lord is with you!

Last week, Chuck taught from the book of Haggai, a prophet who was on the scene after the Babylonian exile, when the Israelites were returning and rebuilding the Temple. Remember how Haggai saw that they were slacking off and prioritizing building their own houses instead of the house of God.  Haggai tells them “Consider your ways.”  There was more than one time in Biblical history that the temple fell into disrepair and had to be cleansed and repaired.  At one earlier time, there began a restoration under King Hezekiah.  First, there was the building of an altar and setting up the temple foundations  And then there needed to be cleansing by removing all the things the priests had stored there. I was thinking how in the New Testament, Paul tells the Corinthians that we are His temple, if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us. We may have set up our altar and laid the foundations of our faith.  And now there’s more work to be done; we, too, must “consider our ways.”

While we prioritize our time with God, we give him all our hindrances. We notice things that need to be repaired or carried out in our temple.  We invite Him to make it His dwelling place.   Maybe it is obvious what doesn’t belong in here, we think of bad behavior, immorality, addictions; but maybe there are some big bricks that we’ve been sitting on, calling them stones of remembrance, that block and distort the Spirit’s way in us.

I brought another book today, The Father Loves You, by our friend, Ed Piorek.  Though I might not resonate with everything here, it held some gifts for me.  Many years ago, when I was in a spiritual leadership program, we were asked to sit with a scripture passage about our Father in heaven.  I recall we were given hours to ponder our earthly fathers and our Father in Heaven. Many participants returned to the group with stories about their own fathers—punitive, passive, demanding–“father issues” abounded.  When my turn came, I said, “Well, my biological father was an alcoholic and my mother left him when I was five.  She remarried my stepfather who never had a hand in my development, never spoke into my life.  I didn’t really have a father, so I don’t have father issues.”  Wow, yes, I got some serious pushback.  I had to deal with my broken lenses, how I had been protecting myself from deep pain and rejection, what unbelief and shame I had been carrying that distorted my relationships.  Reading Piorek’s book reminded me of those days when I identified  that I did, indeed, have father issues.  Maybe you do too.  Anyway, I’m passing the book along to whoever wants to pick it up. We look at what we’ve stored in our temple, not to blame but to unearth, to allow cleansing and repair.  Jesus came expressly to reveal the Father and His great love for us.  Knowing our Father’s love is critical to our spiritual progress.

Join me to pray will you:  Thank you, Father God, for your original and eternal love.  Heal us and help us to realize it.  We turn our attention to you this morning, trusting that you know what we need to hear about your love.  We welcome you; we welcome each other, and we trust in your faithful love for us.    In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke you, from the days of Josiah until today. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin
Jeremiah 36:1-3

Intro: I decided to continue in Jeremiah for another week

There are two stories we will consider that I’ve always enjoyed
– one reason they appeal to me is because they’re interesting
• another reason is that they are meaningful
• although the main character in each story is connected to Jeremiah,
◦ they have nothing else in common
– both stories have two parts, found in two different places
• so we will begin with the first part of each story, and then move to the second part
• I hope you enjoy them as much as I do,
◦ and that we get something worthwhile from them

Baruch’s (Jeremiah’s sidekick) story begins during the reign of King Jehoiakim

The timestamp in this verse is important for two reasons:
first, there was still hope for Judah
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that everyone may turn from his evil way . . . (v. 3)
It may be that their plea for mercy before will come before the LORD, and that every one will turn from his evil way (v. 7)
• unfortunately, there was no change of heart
• as we’ll see, Jehoiakim rejected God’s message–defiantly
second, it was at this time that Babylon first became a threat
• when Babylonian army arrived, Judah surrendered without a fight
◦ but three years later Jehoiakim rebelled
• the nation was quickly torn to pieces
◦ troops from Babylon began to make raids on Judah,
◦ and forces from three other nations also crossed Judah’s border to attack and plunder
– eventually, Babylon’s entire army returned and took Jerusalem
• after eleven years on throne, Jehoiakim died
◦ his son’s reign lasted only 3 months
◦ the king of Babylon carried him off to Babylon,
◦ and with him, the temple treasures, many aristocrats, and many skilled workers (those they did not kill)
• at that point, Zedekiah became Judah’s last king

So here we are in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign
– Jeremiah received instructions to compose a prophetic message
• but he couldn’t read it himself
Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll all the words at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the LORD, so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. . . .” And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house Jeremiah 36:4-8
(Forgive me, but I think it’s funny to hear Jeremiah say, “I’ve been banned from going to the house of the LORD.” It is as if he is saying, “Yeah, I sort of stirred things up, angered some priests, and they said I could not come back to the temple.” My new beatitude: “Blessed are the troublemakers, who do not allow us to destroy ourselves without fair warning.”)
◦ when Baruch read the scroll, it caught the attention of a court official
• he reported it to the king’s secretary and the other officers who were present
◦ they called for Baruch and had him read Jeremiah’s prophecy to them
◦ then they panicked, ordered Baruch to get Jeremiah and hide, and then carried the scroll to the king
– Jehoiakim was in his winter house, where a fire warmed room
• someone began reading from the scroll (which was either a parchment made from reeds or animal hide)
◦ after reading three or four columns, the king cut them off the scroll and threw them into the fire
• then Jehoiakim gave orders to seize Baruch and Jeremiah
◦ but they weren’t able to find them (the LORD hid them, v. 26)

That is part one of Baruch’s story

The hero of the second story is Ebed-melech

He’s an interesting character – we do not know his actual name
(Ebed-melech is a title that means “servant to the king”)
– he was an outsider – an Ethiopian and a eunuch
• in other words, he had no skin in this game — nothing to gain from getting involved
◦ and there was a potential downside
• but even still, he did get involved

Zedekiah was the last king of Judah
– when Babylon was waging its final siege on Jerusalem,
• God’s message through Jeremiah warned the people:
◦ anyone who held-out in the city would die
◦ but whoever went out of the city and surrendered to Babylon would live
• this angered the army’s officers and other leaders
◦ they went to Zedekiah and told him to have Jeremiah executed
◦ Zedekiah capitulated to their demand
So they took Jeremiah and [threw] him into a cistern . . . letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud (Jer. 38:6)
– that is when Ebed-melech stepped up
• he went to the king to argue on Jeremiah’s behalf
“My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city” (Jer. 38:9)
◦ Zedekiah commanded him to take thirty men and rescue Jeremiah
• Ebed-melech first went to a storehouse and grabbed worn-out clothes
◦ he lowered them to Jeremiah by a rope, and told him to put rope around him and the clothes under armpits
Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard . . . . until the day that Jerusalem was taken (Jer. 38:13 and 28)

So these two accounts are the first part of each story

Ebed-melech reappears in chapter 39
The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in m, declares the LORD” Jeremiah 39:15-18

Ebed-melech was rewarded, because he put his trust in Yahweh
– where does his trust appear in the story?
• when he rescued Jeremiah from the cistern
• trust is not only security that holds us through difficult times
◦ trust is dynamic – it is a motive that results in action
◦ trust cannot stand by in the face of injustice — trust in God drives people to intervene
– the reward Ebed-melech received was his life
• “prize of war” translates the Hebrew word for plunder or loot
◦ what we know as “the spoils of war”
• this is a precious gift when the whole world is on fire

Baruch reappears in chapter 45
The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go” Jeremiah 45
(Previously, we were not told about Baruch’s emotional state at that time)

Baruch’s whining is reminiscent of Jeremiah’s complaints
– and God responds to him in the no-nonsense way as he did Jeremiah
• there’s always something bigger than prophet’s well-being
• big enough that is does not matter if we have to take up our cross to follow Jesus
– the entire nation was on the verge of collapse
• everything God had built over hundreds of years was coming down
• every time I read this, the effect I feel is personal
◦ I find this to be a challenging question: And do you seek great things for yourself?
◦ I think it was in 1986 that I wrote this:
My meditation: “Baruch’s desire to seek greatness was not unusual. His problem was his timing. Everything he knew in the world was about to go up in smoke. Gates would be burned to the ground, buildings torn down, and the nation’s leaders disappear. To seek great things in that moment would be like trying to be the most attractive person on the Titanic.”
◦ then in 1991
My meditation: “I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeking great things. We were made for greatness. But to be running around looking for loot or seeking great things for myself, especially in a doomed society, is problematic. For us to seek great things for ourselves is placing the weight of our lives on too small a goal. We were made for God and others, not our little selves.”

As different as they were, Baruch and Ebed-melech received the same promise
“I will give you your life as a prize of war”

Conclusion: Suppose God is saying something like this to us

“You have your life–I have given it to you. It is a resource.
What are you going to do with it?”

Am I going to look for the beauty that lies in every day?
And if I can’t find beauty, will I make beauty?
Poetry and painting – music and song – kindness and generosity

Will I add goodness to the world?
Will I practice friendliness wherever I go?

Will I search for truth? Will I embrace it when I find it?
Will I speak and advocate truth?
Will I be true?

We have these choices,
these opportunities
and this one lifetime

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, from “The Summer Day”

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