Yesterday at the Good Friday service at Grandview Baptist Church, they showed this video reflection on “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” I was impacted by it’s message. I hope you will be as well.
Yesterday at the Good Friday service at Grandview Baptist Church, they showed this video reflection on “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” I was impacted by it’s message. I hope you will be as well.
The third nation addressed, after Egypt (46) and Philistia (47), is Moab, a nation on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Jeremiah’s message to the people and cities of Moab is lengthy, longer than pronouncement against Egypt and exceeded only by the prophecy against Babylon (50-51). Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Moabites were descendants of Lot (and the nation from which Ruth came); consequently, their hostility against Israel less expected and more heinous than that of many other nations.
Another unusual feature of the prophetic word to Moab is the number of cities mentioned (about twenty-five). God is making it clear that the judgment will come against “every town, and not a town will escape” (8). If Jeremiah had wanted to do so, he could have easily shortened the message by omitting the names of Moabite cities (no other nation has as many of its cities singled out for impending judgment). The fact that God moved Jeremiah to list them indicates both an extensive knowledge of Moab and an extensive judgment on Moab.
The instrument of Moab’s destruction is not specifically mentioned, although in historical context, the usual suspect would be the Babylonians. Indeed, historical records from Josephus claim that Moab lost independence to Babylon in 582. After this, Moab soon ceases to be known as a nation.
As in other prophecies, Jeremiah pictures the distress, devastation and shame that will accompany God’s judgment. Jeremiah speaks of the “anguished cries” of the people (5), the frantic fleeing of its inhabitants (19), the helplessness of its defenders (“the hearts Moab’s warriors will be like the heart of a woman in labour”—41) and the mourning of the surviving remnant (shaved heads and beards, slashed hands and sackcloth—37).
Jeremiah makes it clear that Moab has not experienced this kind of widespread judgment in its past. The people of Moab had been “at rest from youth.” (11). Jeremiah compares Moab to a jar of “wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another” (11). In the coming days, God would send “men who pour from jars” to empty her (take her into exile—11) and “smash her jugs” (12).
Why the coming, catastrophic judgment on Moab? Jeremiah’s prophecy identifies several significant reasons: Moab’s pride, scorn for Israel and idolatry.
Pride (towards self): Moab’s pride had become overt and obvious to others: “We have heard of Moab’s pride—her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and arrogance and the haughtiness of her heart” (29). Having enjoyed years of peace and security (11), having become wealthy (7, 36) and built fortified cities (18), Moab had become a proud people. Twice (26, 42) we are told that Moab “defied the Lord” (Hebrew: magnified against the Lord). Since “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6), He judges Moab.
Scorn (towards others): An expression of Moab’s pride was its scorn for Israel. There should have been a natural affinity for Israel since Moab descended from Lot. Instead, Moab joined those who rejoiced in Israel’s downfall: “Was not Israel the object of your ridicule?” (27). Instead of compassion, there was only contempt (Prov. 24:17). God took this ridicule of His people personally and dealt with Moab severely.
Idolatry (towards God): The judgment on Moab is a judgment on Chemosh, Moab’s chief god (7, 13,46). The worship of this false god had been brought to Jerusalem by Solomon (1 Kings 11:7) and officially put to an end by Josiah (2 Kings 23:13). However, since Josiah’s sons tolerated the resurgence of idolatry, there may have been Jews who still worshiped the “detestable god of Moab” (1 Kings 11:7).
The application of all this is not hard to see. God brings shattering trouble on those who sin through pride (reliance on my own resources or reputation), scorn (disgust mixed with derision) or idolatry (exchanging the true God for a counterfeit).
What strikes me with most force from this chapter is the unexpected combination of fierce judgment and deep lament that we see within God’s attitude and actions. He unapologetically brings “shattering” (39) judgment on an entire nation—including the “little ones”(4). He brings in a conquering army, calling them to execute His judgment with deadly force: “A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed” (10). Yet, at the same moment, His heart is filled with sadness and lament for the Moabites He is judging: “Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out” (31); “So my heart laments for Moab like a flute” (36). Oh, the deep love and fierce wrath of God! We humans cannot contain both emotions in our heart at the same time. We toggle between the two. Yet God simultaneously and eternally delights in “kindness, justice and righteousness” (9:24).
Many people in the West are reinterpreting or simply rejecting the “war texts” of Scripture (especially the conquest in Joshua) as barbaric and unworthy of God. Some say that the events described in Joshua never happened—they claim that God did not (and would not) command the widespread annihilation of the Canaanites. They see themselves as rescuing God’s reputation, as defending His image as a God who is love (1 John 4:7-8). What they miss is that God’s nature remains loving even as he executes righteous judgment. He laments over the devastation that He brings upon the wicked (including those we would call the innocents or “little ones”). Conversely, He shatters those who defy Him even as He weeps over their destruction.
One of the most remarkable features of this prophetic message is its ending: “’Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the days to come,’ declares the Lord” (47). Here again we see the compassionate heart of God for all peoples—even an arrogant, idolatrous nation like Moab. While some see a historical resurgence for Moab, my sense is that the promise finds its fulfillment in the promise that people from every “nation, tribe, people and language” will be included in the heavenly company of believers (Rev. 9:7)
When Jeremiah was called to his prophetic ministry, he was appointed “over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). In chapter 47, Jeremiah delivers a message of destruction to the Philistines.
The Philistines, historic enemies of Israel, lived in towns along the Mediterranean coast. Jeremiah warns of the coming of an army to fulfill God’s judgment on the nation. The Philistines were caught in the crossfire between the superpowers of their day—Babylon and Egypt. The coming invasion predicted by Jeremiah could refer to either of these two nations. When verse 2 refers to “waters are rising in the north” it could be speaking of Egypt moving north (compare similar language about Egypt in 46:7-8) or the Babylonians coming from the north. Since both countries attacked the Philistines, either one could be in view. I would see the most natural reading of the phrase “waters are rising in the north” (2) as referring to the Babylonians—the pot of boiling water poured out from the north (see 1:13-14).
The coming attack would bring demolition to the major cities—two of the five major Philistine cities are mentioned by name (Gaza–1, 5) and Ashkelon—5). The coming carnage would be like an “overflowing torrent” that covered the “land and everything in it” (2). The destruction would be both widespread and deep (4).
The Philistines will be helpless to stop the attack. “Fathers will not turn to help their children; their hands will hang limp” (3). Those who survive will lament and “cut” themselves (5)—cutting being a long-standing way for people to self-inflict suffering. The grieving remnant would cry out to the Lord, asking how long He would allow His judgment (“the sword of the Lord”—6) to bring death? The people understood God was behind the devastation of the population. He “commanded it” and “ordered it” (6).
The message Jeremiah delivers concerning the Philistines is devoid of any promising postscript. In the previous chapter, the message to Egypt concluded with a ray of hope: “Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past” (46:26). There is no such glimmer of grace at the end of chapter 47.
The chapter raises the issue of God’s judgment on nations by means of other nations. In our culture, there is a great deal of discussion related to Israel’s conquest of the Canaanites under Joshua. Many argue that God must be a moral monster to have instructed Israel to destroy the Canaanite populations. Some, like Peter Enns, contend this bloody conquest was never ordered by God and never really happened; Israel simply used conventional ANE language (exaggeration and war-time hyperbole) to describe their entry into Canaan and their belief that God wanted them to be victorious.
But Jeremiah 47 shows the problem for those who decry Israel’s conquest of the Canaanites is bigger than they imagine. God didn’t just instruct Israel to destroy cities and populations; He moved other nations to be the instrument of his lethal judgment. And not just godly, virtuous ones, but nations like Egypt and Babylon.
A close look at the text gives us a better sense of how to understand passages that predict or prescribe the invasion and destruction of whole cities or nations.
Before I get to the prayer requests, let me start with a praise report. Last week I asked you to pray for 1) increased spring/summer enrollment, 2) increased fall admissions for the college and 3) my (Rick) Sunday speaking ministry at several churches.
The Lord gave some encouraging answers to our prayers! Our spring/summer enrollment looks to be an all-time high, 2) we have just accepted over a dozen new college students for the fall semester and 3) I sensed God’s empowerment and I preached in Hamilton last Sunday. Thank you for praying.
May God’s answers encourage us to keep praying. Here are several requests for this week.
1 Linda and I both teach all day tomorrow (Saturday). She teaches a class for women on writing Bible Study Curriculum. I teach a course on pastoral leadership. Linda will actually join me for an hour as we talk to these men and their wives about merging marriage and ministry. Please pray both classes would be used by the Lord to prepare these men and women for more fruitful ministry.
2 Next Tuesday I am giving an update on Heritage at a conference for pastors and ministry leaders. Pray that God will continue to give us favour with pastors and deepen our partnership with local churches. As I often say, “Heritage exists for the Church and we can’t exist without the Church.”
3 Fall Enrollment. Please continue to ask the Lord to direct more stellar men and women to Heritage for the coming year. I would love to see more young men and women get at least a year of solid Bible training in our college.
Chapter 46 begins a lengthy section of the book in which we see Jeremiah living out his original calling to be a prophet “over nations and kingdoms” (1:10). While the primary recipients of his prophetic messages were the kings, leaders, prophets and people of Judah and Jerusalem, Jeremiah was also given messages for surrounding nations. A summary list of the nations addressed in chapters 46-51 is given in chapter 25:15-36. A natural reading of Jeremiah 25:1, 36:1 and 45:1 would indicate that these messages were contained on the scroll that Jeremiah dictated to Baruch.
The first nation to be addressed is Egypt (46:1-26; also listed first in 25:19). The “message against the army of Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt” (2) comes in two parts (2-12, 13-26), both of which make the same point: Egypt will suffer a devastating defeat at the hands of the Babylonians.
The first of the two pronouncements is given after the Egyptian army “was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son on Josiah king of Judah” (2). The fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s (25:1). Jehoiakim had been appointed as a vassal to Pharaoh Necho in 608 BC after the Egyptians had defeated the Israelites and killed king Josiah who tried to stop their northern advancement. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, reigned for three months after his father’s untimely death, only to be exiled to Egypt and replaced by his brother Jehoiakim.
In 605 the Egyptians again marched north to aid their allies the Assyrians against the upstart Babylonians. Egypt was soundly defeated at Carchemish, a city on the northern border of Syria, along the Euphrates river (2). The Babylonians marched down to Judah and forced Jehoiakim to pay heavy taxes, exiling some of the elite young leaders (Daniel and his three friends). When Babylon seemed unable to maintain control of the region, Jehoiakim switched allegiances to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, angered by this change, would march against Jerusalem; Jehoiakim’s eleven-year reign would end with his death.
Jeremiah’s message is addressed to Egypt before they are defeated at Carchemish. While verse 2 indicates the outcome of the battle, the prophetic word in verses 3-12 seems to be predictive, as it speaks of Egypt’s coming defeat “in the land of the north by the River Euphrates” (10). In this case, verse 2 is a summary of the following message.
The message opens with a call to Egypt to prepare for battle with the Babylonians (3-4). Jeremiah speaks of Egypt rising “like the Nile”—a picture of the nation’s surge in strength and it’s ambition to regain its place of power among the nations (7-8). But Egypt’s plans will be shattered. Their warriors will be “terrified” and “flee in haste”(5). Their allies (mercenaries from Cush, Put and Lydia—9) will “fall down together” in death (12).
The reason for the defeat is that God is sovereignly ruling over the nations. The battle belongs to the Lord: “But that day belongs to the Lord, the LORD Almighty—a day of vengeance for vengeance on his foes” (10). The defeat of Egypt is pictured as a “sacrifice” where God offers up Egypt and her allies to death (10).
Verse 13 begins a second and subsequent message to Egypt. That this is a different (and later) message is indicated by the fact that it concerns an invasion by Babylon into Egypt (13). The first message described Egypt’s battle with Babylon up in the north (6); this battle will take place in Egypt itself. Historically, this battle would have occurred when Egypt reasserted its independence over Babylon, perhaps in 568 BC, the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (according to a clay tablet housed at the British Museum).
Egypt is pictured as a “beautiful heifer” attacked by a “gadfly . . . from the north.” (20). Here hired mercenaries are described as “fattened calves” that flee back to their homelands (21) and badmouth Pharaoh as a “loud noise” and one who “missed his opportunity” (17). The picture of a “gadfly” nipping (the Hebrew word means “to nip”) a calf would indicate this battle would be painful but not a slaughter (like Carchemish). However, the result of the fight would be that Egypt is “handed over to the people of the north” (24), with many of the people taken into exile (19).
Once again, the reason for Egypt’s defeat at the hands of the Babylonian armies is due to the fact that the Lord is once again fighting against Egypt: “Why will your warriors be laid low? They cannot stand, for the Lord will push them down” (15). He is punishing Egypt for their idolatry: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods . . .” (25). As in the Exodus, God was demonstrating His supremacy over the false gods of the nations. But while He was punishing Egypt and shaming their confidence in false gods, He still had future plans for the nation: “Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past” (26). Jeremiah’s message to Egypt echoes the earlier word from Isaiah in pointing to a brighter future for the Egyptians (Isaiah 19:25; see also Ezekiel 29:13-16).
Israel would suffer defeat for their foolish reliance on Egypt. When Egypt regained power and rebuffed the Babylonians after the Battle of Carchemish, Jehoiakim switched allegiances from Babylon to Egypt. He should have remembered Jeremiah’s message that Babylon would be supreme for seventy years (25:11). By banking on Egypt, he would suffer the fate of the nations who “rely on Pharaoh” (25). Nebuchadnezzar would return and punish the city in 597, the year of Jehoiakim’s death.
The message to Egypt ends with a word of hope for “Jacob” (27-28). The Lord still sees them as His “servant” (27, 28) in spite of their disobedience. He pledges to be with them and to bring them back to their own land on the far side of disciplining them through exile. He will not desert or destroy them. This is amazing grace; this is unfailing love.
Last Friday I asked you to pray for our Heritage Leadership Team as we met for prayer and planning. I also requested prayer for several speaking opportunities (marriage conference, Sunday sermon). Throughout the weekend, we sensed God’s grace, guidance, and empowerment. It was a fruitful time! Thank you for supporting us with your prayers.
This week, I would invite you to join in praying for several important requests.
1 Spring/Summer Course Registration. Students are currently signing up for courses that run during the months of May and June. Once again this year, we have an excellent array of choices (click here to see the list). Pray that many more students would be able to take advantage of a course this spring. (Perhaps you would consider taking one of these modular courses–either for credit or as an audit).
2 College Admission for the Fall. We are in the midst of registering students for the fall semester. At this point, we are encouraged by the good number of students who have indicated they will be coming to Heritage. Pray that the Lord would send us many more stellar men and women to train for life and ministry.
3 Preaching Ministry. This Sunday, I (Rick) and preaching at Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton in the morning and at the Karen Baptist Church in the afternoon. The Karen church is made up of a people group coming to Canada from Myanmar. Pray that I will speak God’s Word faithfully, clearly and effectively.
Thank you for your ongoing prayer support!
Chapter 45 is one of the most intriguing chapters in the entire book. It is by far the shortest chapter in the book—only five verses long. It is intentionally not in chronological order. The previous six chapters describe the fall of Jerusalem and the remnant’s rebellious flight to Egypt (39-44). But as the opening verse in chapter 45 indicates, the event detailed in chapter 45 took place in the “fourth year of Jehoiakim.” Further, the message from God recorded in this chapter is directed to one individual—Baruch son of Neriah.
I see several reasons for the unique features of this short chapter. First, chapter 45 finishes the section of the book dealing with God’s people; the remaining chapters of the book (excluding the final chapter) are God’s messages to the surrounding nations. So the words to Baruch are included at this point as a summary statement of God’s decision to bring judgment on Judah. Second, this chapter sets up the collection of prophetic messages to the nations by indicating God’s plan to “bring disaster on all people” (45:5).
In that sense, it is a hinge chapter between what has come before it (judgment on Judah) and what comes after it (judgment on the nations). The repeated mention of the “fourth year of Jehoiakim (45:1; 46:2) may indicate that the messages to the surrounding nations (46-51) could have been included on the scroll that Baruch finished writing (45:1). Third, this chapter provides God’s instruction on how His people should (and should not) respond to His plans to bring widespread judgment on the earth. Fourth, the chapter ends with a reminder that God can protect His people even in the worst of global judgment.
The message in this chapter is directed to Baruch, son of Neriah. Baruch was Jeremiah’s colleague and amanuenses. He wrote down what Jeremiah dictated (2). Baruch came from a well-connected family in Judah. His brother Seraiah would later serve as an officer in Zedekiah’s court (51:59).
Being an ally and assistant to Jeremiah was a difficult and dangerous assignment for Baruch, especially after Jehoiakim came to power. Verse 1 indicates that Baruch worked with Jeremiah to produce this scroll in the “fourth year of Jehoiakim” (1). The backstory is detailed in chapter 36. There we find that Jeremiah had been barred from speaking publicly in the Temple (36:5), so he sends Baruch to read the scroll in the Temple on a feast day (36:6); Baruch goes from being the writer in the shadows to the reader out in public. The message creates quite a stir. In short order, Baruch is asked to read the scroll to a private gathering of court officials (36:15-16). They advise him (along with Jeremiah) to go into hiding and they take the scroll to the king. Showing no fear of God, Jehoiakim burns the scroll bit by bit, and sends officials to find and arrest Jeremiah and Baruch. In keeping with God’s promise at the end of chapter 45, the Lord keeps both men safe (36:26; 45:5).
After he finishes writing the words that were dictated by Jeremiah (literally “from the mouth of” Jeremiah), Baruch is overcome with a sense of sorrow and self-pity. The Lord indicates that He heard Baruch’s lament: “You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest” (3). These words indicate Baruch had been groaning in pain before the writing of this scroll. He was already weary and discouraged (the word for “groaning” means “sighing”); the message on the scroll pushes him over edge.
Baruch had been faithful to serve the Lord by serving His prophet, Jeremiah. He had faithfully recorded the messages God gave Jeremiah. His association with Jeremiah had brought him pain as the message and messengers were resisted and rejected. Unlike his brother who would rise in the ranks of power under Zedekiah, Baruch would be hunted by Jehoiakim and forced into hiding. Now, he would suffer with “all people” for the disobedience of the Israelites—even when he had been faithful to God. Instead of a great life, he was getting great sorrow and great pain. He was tired of it all and could find no “rest” (safe haven).
The Lord has a personalized message for Baruch. It comes with the preamble that messages to Judah or the nations normally contain: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says . . .” (2). The message reiterates that God will indeed “bring disaster on all people” (5); He will “overthrow” and “uproot” Judah in a widespread judgment that will spill over to the surrounding nations (46-51). But the Lord’s message to Baruch is not only a confirmation of impending judgment, it also includes a correction of Baruch’s attitude and perspective: “Should you then seek great things for yourself? See them not.” In context, the great things (literally just “great”) would imply all that makes up a “great life.” This could include stability, peace, prosperity and safety. Perhaps, in Baruch’s case, it included great success ministry—a ministry that is (or at least becomes) fulfilling and fruitful.
Baruch is rebuked for allowing his perspective to become self-focused and his ambition to become self-centered. Rather than feeling the pain of the people he served, he was caught up in his own pain. Further, he missed the pain that the coming judgment would bring to God’s own heart. The Lord was about to “overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted” (4). God was grieved to destroy what He had built, but Baruch is either unaware or unmoved by this. He’s caught up in his own pain and ambitious for his own gain.
But God’s rebuke of Baruch’s self-centered ambition should not be read as a referendum on all ambition. In fact, God was calling Jeremiah and Baruch to an incredibly ambitious ministry assignment. He was having them record all His previous messages to Judah (36:2) for the purpose of calling the nation to repentance and renewal: “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin” (36:3). Talk about an ambitious goal! They are called to work with God in bringing about national repentance. They are seeking to change the spiritual trajectory and history of an entire people. So God is not against ambition, provided it’s God-inspired and God-centered (not self-initiated and self-centered).
Even as the Lord rebukes and corrects Baruch’s ambition, He shows grace and mercy to him. The message ends with a promise of deliverance from death: “wherever you go I will let you escape with your life” (45:5). Though Baruch has slipped into self-pity and become self-centered, God is not through with him. The fact that Baruch continues to work with Jeremiah (see 43:3) is evidence that he responded well to God’s message. May that be true of all of us as well.