Meanwhile, 500 miles away from Babylon (if you marched in a straight and direct line) back in Jerusalem, as the city was about to be totally devastated by the Babylonians, Jeremiah was still faithfully proclaiming the Word of the Lord. God’s people needed encouragement but they would face the ramifications of their sin before they would experience the rescue from God. This is what the LORD says: “Those who survive the coming destruction will find blessings even in the barren land, for I will give rest to the people of Israel.” …This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people of Judah and its towns will again say, ‘The LORD bless you, O righteous home, O holy mountain!’
This promise became reality, but first the people experienced sin’s consequence: seventy years of captivity. Make no mistake, sin is a trap, a deadly snare and only God can save us from it. And oh, how we rejoice when the Lord of Heaven’s Armies comes in to rescue us. Are we calling out for Him to hear us? Be wise to know that we cannot handle sin’s net on our own.
Jeremiah 31:2, 23 NLT
King Josiah listened to Jeremiah’s wise counsel and brought about some spiritual reforms during his reign. But what about the next generation? Would Josiah’s son follow in his footsteps? When Josiah died, God told Jeremiah to go right up to the palace in Jerusalem and address the new king. What are the signs that make a king a good leader? Jeremiah boldly proclaimed, “But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him.”
Tragedy would strike because Josiah’s son was wholeheartedly set on dishonest profit. He did not provide care for people who could not care for themselves. He and those who followed his evil ways faced captivity by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and Judah was about to find out that life was not going to be lived in luxury for much longer. The beautiful cedar palace did not protect them. The only thing that will ultimately protect us is a right relationship with God. He blesses those who deal with situations in right and just ways.
Jeremiah 22:15 NLT
Jeremiah used an illustration from a potter’s shop for his next sermon. The same way a potter, when forming a bowl, can reshape the clay if it is not going the way he wants, so God can reshape a nation. He is the Potter; nations are the clay. God says, “…if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would. Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.’”
The leaders did not want to hear news like this! They brought so much ridicule and punishment for Jeremiah that he says, “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!” Hang in there, Jeremiah, God is on your side! He is on the side of all who turn to Him and His right ways. When God is for us, what are those who are against us but mere humans, clay in the hands of a great Potter.
Jeremiah 18:9-11 NLT; Jeremiah 20:14 NIV
The summer of 2011 was a blessed season of reunions. It had been three years since we had been together with our extended families in the US. Our family of five arrived in Michigan from Thailand on different days and after a lot of travel we enjoyed a wonderful party hosted by my mom to celebrate Sophie and Isaiah’s high school graduations. Before meeting up with the Minick family in Branson, Missouri for another meaningful family reunion, Isaiah attended a pre-college retreat for missionary kids in Illinois. Resting from the drive, Hannah and I laughed through a quirky movie in our rented room. The main character was seeking to rescue a gal but she was not so sure that he was the good guy. So he tried to persuade her of her need to trust him by raising and lowering his hand. Her chances for survival were better with him (hand raised) than without him (hand lowered). Maybe because the young lady in the scene was under some stress, the rescuing man needed to repeat his illustration.
Without meaning to be irreverent, I can picture God lowering and raising His hand when He says: “The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed. The man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed.” We are oh so much better off with God than without Him. With God we are blessed; without Him we are cursed. Do we not see our total need for Him to rescue us? Thank You, Father God, for showing us in so many ways how You are trustworthy. With You we not only survive but we have the ability to thrive as Your Holy Spirit lives within us. May we sing with joy about the joy that is for those whose confidence is in the Lord. Amen.
Jeremiah 17:5, 7 HCSB
Jeremiah’s role of being a prophet was a thankless job. God’s people, Israel (called “faithless”) and her sister Judah (called “unfaithful”) rebelled all the more and refused to return to the Lord. As their disobedience heightened, and Jeremiah’s plea for their re-thinking intensified, some even tried to kill Jeremiah for giving a “negative” prophecy. It was a very low point in God’s recorded Story. Those He created in His image, those He loved and rescued and designed a covenant with, were far away from Him and far away from living out any of His virtues and values.
Then, God said it was too late, that Jeremiah shouldn’t even bother praying for them anymore since destruction was coming. The Lord gave clear instructions: “Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,” declares the LORD.
How disheartening that the people did not take God’s warnings to heart or His rebukes through Jeremiah seriously, and they completely rejected His loving kindness. Will we learn from history? I pray that our nation, our world, has not pushed God too far. Please, God, do not withdraw Your love from us. May we fully return to You while there is still time. Amen.
Jeremiah 16:5b NIV
Rather than living in awe of an awesome God, God’s people not only neglected to thank Him for His blessings, but they pursued evil as if wickedness were a treasure. As they broke all of the Ten Commandments and then some, their sins left them hungry for more sin. Goodness from a good God is not at all what they were experiencing at this point in the Story. Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things. Throughout history, mankind has not been content with good alone, as was established in the Garden of Eden, but has added evil to it. May God help us break this cycle of treasuring sin in our own lives and in our communities, so once again we can thank Him for His generous blessings to us.
As I edit this portion of The Blessing Book it is November and I’m reflecting on the Lord’s goodness. I’m so thankful for forgiveness of my sins and I’m so grateful for the bonus of living in God’s wonderful blessings – too many to count. My sin could have robbed me of all the joy of being in God’s family but thanks to Jesus, I am forgiven. And I’m blessed as my family is extended and includes Hannah’s new married family too. Our kitchen was filled with the smells of Thanksgiving. I had time before the Minicks met up at the Roberts’ to enjoy good food together, so I rode my bike to Houston’s Memorial Park and locked it to a pole. The crisp autumn air was perfect for running laps. My eyes and ears focused on people from a variety of countries who were spending their holiday morning at the park. I thought back to the first Thanksgiving when Pilgrims and Native Americans thanked God together. Praying for those on the running trail increased my gratitude. I asked God to bless everyone I saw with good food to share with family, and more than that, to know the God of every good blessing.
Getting back to Jeremiah’s admonition, may we trade wickedness (if that is too strong of a word we could use selfishness, or a number of other words that mean sin) for wholesomeness, and live in awe of God with gratitude. As God’s people we can celebrate Thanksgiving in July too!
Jeremiah 5:25 NLT
Jeremiah was the next prophet God used to try to get the attention of His straying people. It is interesting that along with strong admonitions, Jeremiah’s conversations with the Lord are also recorded in God’s Story. Jeremiah’s ministry lasted nearly half a century and he is known as the weeping prophet.
“O Israel,” says the Lord, “if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more… Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people would come and praise my name.” Our Heavenly Father pleads like a loving parent yet His children ignored Him and in doing so they missed the opportunity to be a blessing to the nations of the world! They passed on their turn to bless. And not only did they miss out on being a blessing, but things go from bad to worse as chapter after chapter, year after year, hard stubborn hearts refused to return fully to God who loves them.
Contrary to Buddhist thought, we only get to live once; let’s take our chance to bless while we can. How will we be used by God to be a blessing to the nations of the world? He can only use us when we yield to Him and when we let go of the things we value more than God. In our day and time, idols are not necessarily carved from stone or wood, but boy do we have things that are important in our eyes that may distract us from seeing the Lord clearly.
Jeremiah 4:1-2b NLT