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Jeremiah points to Christmas

November 13th, 2010 by Vic

“Jeremiah points to Christmas”

Jeremiah 23, 31-35

November 14, 2010

The prophet Isaiah had been preaching in the north.  Isaiah was murdered by a wicked king about 30 years before Jeremiah was born.  He was the son of a second class priest at Anathoth, the village about 3 miles NE of Jerusalem.  This family of priests was not in Jerusalem because Solomon had kicked them out of Jerusalem about 400 years earlier.

The prophets Zephaniah and Habakkuk also preached during Jeremiah’s lifetime.  Ezekiel and Daniel were prophets among the exiles in Babylon.

Jeremiah was about the same age as Josiah, who became king at age 8.  In the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (627) Jeremiah heard directly from the Lord.  3 years later Josiah was cleaning out the Temple and found the Law of Moses.  Jeremiah refers to this covenant throughout his ministry.  He preached 41 years until he was taken to Egypt and probably preached several more years in Egypt.

This book of Jeremiah is a collection of his preaching that he dictated to Baruch twice.  He wrote to kings, to false prophets, to wicked priests, to the educated exiles in Babylon, and to the riff raff left in Jerusalem.  He had to rewrite some of this book because the first edition was burnt in a firepot by an arrogant king.  The order of the chapters is not historically sequential, but they are dated by their contents.  This is the largest book in the Bible.

1:1-10  Jeremiah was about 20 years old.  God had forbidden him to marry.

Although King Josiah tried to follow the book of the Law and restore the worship of God only, the revival lasted only until the king died in battle.  Josiah planned a national Passover celebration that had not been done for a long time and would not happen again for a long time.

11:1-3  God told Jeremiah to remind the people of the covenant they had made with God when they came out of Egypt.  Jeremiah was treated favorably by public officials during the reign of Josiah even while he preached repentance and obedience.  However, his family tried to kill him.

11:18-23; 12:6

When King Josiah died in battle in 609, Jeremiah started suffering more persecution and threats.  He was thrown in a dry well a couple times.  He was rescued by a foreigner.  He was put in stocks.  He was forbidden to enter the Temple.  He contradicted the positive thinking false prophets and predicted the deaths of several leaders.  He predicted the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  He preached submission to the foreign leaders God was using.

Jeremiah loved his people.  He complained to God because he had such a negative message.  He pleaded with God for the salvation of the people.  And he pleaded with the people to repent and submit to God’s will and ways.  He could have lived in luxury in Babylon, but chose to be with the people who needed to hear from God.

He was a patriot who advised the people to submit to a foreign government.  He knew the plan of God.  The people thought he was a traitor.

The pivotal point of Jeremiah’s message comes in 31:31.  After preaching the covenant law of Moses for most of his life, God shows him the old covenant is going to be superseded by a new covenant.  His message will not need to be written on paper or stone.  It will be written by the Spirit of God on the hearts of those that believe.  Jeremiah was seeing Christmas and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Hopefully Jeremiah can help us see Christ in the Christmas holiday season.  Think about one of the first people who recognized Jesus.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:41).  Jeremiah calls us to repent and seek the face of God.  As we look forward to Christmas, shop less, worship more, spend less, give more, fret less, love more.  Give your presence not presents.  Jesus can still change our world.

No other religion in the world that claims to be written by the finger of God on tablets of stone proclaims its own insufficiency and announces a new way to know and worship God.  Like John the Baptist declared, “There is One coming after me whose shoes I am not worthy to tie.”  John was popular.  John could have been a cult leader.  But he pointed to another.

I read through the first 35 chapters of Jeremiah on Tuesday.  Let me review with you a few notes I made then we’ll look more closely at chapters 23, 29 and 31-35.

2:5-6; 8  The people and the priests lost their hunger for God.

2:13  They have tried to find fulfillment with their own resources.

2:19, 31  Stop and think, consider why you are having such a hard time.

2:27  It is not smart to turn your backside to God.

3:2, 9  Sin affects creation.  Sustainable farming begins with the fear of the Lord.

4:18  Sin self-destructs.

5:1  Salt and light kind of Christians preserve the land.

5:30-31  Are we satisfied with lies?

6:13  Is greed common today?

6:16  Christians must be watchmen and point the way to God.

7:2-7  God offers mercy and forgiveness to sinners.

9:5, 8  Have we practiced lying?

9:12-13  Pollution is an indication that people have ignored God’s law.

11:3, 6  God made a covenant with us.

12:4  Fertile soil begins with God.

12:10 & 17:9

17:7-8  The promise of Psalm 1 is stated.

18:17  When God turns His back on us, we are in trouble.

23:1-4 God warns the wicked pastor/shepherds.  God is going to punish them and become the Good Shepherd.  Then He will place other shepherds over them who will care for them.

23:5-6 the Righteous Branch

In contrast to the current unrighteous leaders, God is declaring the coming of the Messiah/Good Shepherd and His rule during the church age and forever.  The Messiah is pictured as a tree that started as a sprout from the root of David.  Today He reigns in the hearts of believers.  He conquers by love, mercy, grace and peace.  Jeremiah was looking forward to today.

The true Israel, the children of God will live in safety.  From Revelation we learned that the children of God are called the holy city, the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem.  Look ahead to Jeremiah 33:16.  The children of God are called Jerusalem and live in security because of their relationship to the righteous Messiah.  This new Shepherd will bring the new covenant to His children.  They will live in peace and security.

29:10-15  Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon.

They were a long way from home.  They had to learn a new language.  They had limited rights.  Some wanted to rebel.  Some wanted to sneak out of town.  Jeremiah writes a letter and reminds them why they are where they are.  God wants to cleanse their hearts of all idolatry.  God wants to humble their self-reliant attitudes.  God wants them to trust and obey Him with their whole heart.

How does God discipline you?  How can you know God’s will and ways?  Honor Him.  Face Him.  Seek Him with your whole heart.  Half hearted love will get you into exile.  Intermittent love does not please God.  Sunday only worship does not please God.  What does the Lord require of you?  Micah 6:8 says, “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

31:11-12  God promises to redeem the sinners so they can rejoice and give thanks.  Jesus came to redeem sinners so we could give thanks in everything.

31:15  Rachel’s tomb was on the main highway and she is pictured as sitting up in her grave and weeping because her children are not around anywhere.  She was Jacob’s wife and died in the childbirth of Benjamin.

31:17  The Lord replies, “Your children will return.”  There is hope for your children.

Our culture has trouble with deferred gratification.  We don’t like to save up for our children.  The bumper stickers on big motor homes that declare, “I spent my kids inheritance” is not funny.  It is really sad.  We want everything.  We can have it now with a credit card.  The whole message of Jeremiah is about the hope that our children have if we repent and obey His covenant.  The promises in Jeremiah are for the children and their children’s children and our children.

31:27-33  God is declaring a new covenant.

In Genesis 9:9 God established a covenant with Noah and sent a rainbow.  In Gen 15:18 God made a covenant with Abram and promised him the land.  In Gen 17:11 God made a covenant of circumcision and promised Abraham many descendents.  In Exodus 24:7 Moses read the covenant of the law to the people.  This covenant was placed in the Ark of the Covenant.  In the NT Jesus declared that the cup of wine they drank at the last supper was the cup of the new covenant in His blood (Lk 22:20).  2 Cor 3:6 says,” He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant.”  Heb 7:22 calls it a better covenant.  Heb 10:16 says, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Do you delight to do God’s will?  Do you delight in giving thanks?  Is your heart an Ark of the Covenant or a treasure chest of Babylon’s riches?

32:6-9  God confirmed His promise by telling Jeremiah it was OK to buy land.

32:24  In his prayer, Jeremiah reminded the Lord that things happened just like He said they would.

32:33  Honor God.

33:3  Jeremiah was under house arrest for his own safety and the Lord gave him a promise to tell the people.

33:8-11  Things are not good right now, but give thanks because God is still in control.  You may feel like you are in a desolate place, but give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His love endures forever.

33:15 God promises the coming of Christ again.  You can be faithful and be part of God’s story.

34:8-17  The king and leaders made a covenant with God to give freedom to all the Hebrew slaves.   They quickly reneged.  God declares that these leaders are now free to fall by the sword, plague, and famine.

35:1-19  God introduces Jeremiah to the Recabites as examples of the way covenants should be kept.  If a family can make this kind of commitment to remain faithful, how much more will God keep His covenants and promises.  He has set abundant life in Christ before you.  Obey His covenants and live.  Ignore God’s covenants and suffer the consequences of separation fro God.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  I want my heart and my home to be an Ark of the new Covenant.

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