Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ezekiel 2

The spiritual state of LORD's people and their dark deeds have reached an alarming proportion - they are rebellious and strongly oppose His Laws. LORD commissioned Ezekiel to be the man of this hour. LORD commanded Ezekiel that he would would go into such a hostile environment and say, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” The consequences to the person of Ezekiel would be shunning, words of opposition, and looks that could kill.
Ezekiel 2:6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.
LORD then handed him over a scroll, filled with words of lamentation.

Ezekiel 1

Ezekiel's vision - Raffael (1518)

King Nebuchadnezzar took most of the treasures of the King's palace and the house of the LORD. He took captive 10,000 of the most affluent people of Jerusalem, among whom was Ezekiel. He was was twenty five years at that time. Five years later, at the age of 30, LORD appeared to Ezekiel at the river Chebar and called him to the office of prophet. Ezekiel was a priest and his name means “God will strengthen."

Ezekiel saw the glory of LORD in the form of the cherubim, wheels, expanse, and throne. In his vision, there were four living creatures with four wings, each touching the wing of another, and four faces - those of a man, lion, ox, eagle, and of the four sparkling wheels full of eyes that they are seen within. Above them was the firmament, where Ezekiel saw one with the appearance of a man sitting on a throne.

A detailed description is given in chapter 1.

Lamentations 5

The final lament is a prayer in light of Jerusalem's grave situation.

LORD is called upon, to look at the humiliation they are going through. Just to name a few troubles they are encountering,
Lamentations 5:2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
    our homes to foreigners.
3 We have become fatherless,
    our mothers are widows.
4 We must buy the water we drink;
    our wood can be had only at a price.
5 Those who pursue us are at our heels;
    we are weary and find no rest.
6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
    to get enough bread.
The list is long, and there is no more joy in their hearts. Their dancing has now turned into mourning. Their prayer is to restore them, and to renew them so that they could remember their good old days.

Lamentations 4

This lament explains those horrors experienced by the Jews during the Babylonian siege. The chapter is organized as below:

  • Judgments [1-12].
  • Zion. Confession [13-20].
  • Retribution of Jehovah [21-22].
The precious children of Israel have lost their luster, and do not even have bread. They have nothing to drink, and the mouths of those infants have turned dry. Even those clothed in royal robes have met the same end. The punishment seems to be similar to that of Sodom. The extend of famine is so bad - women have eaten their own children

Lamentations 4:10 With their own hands compassionate women
    have cooked their own children,
who became their food
    when my people were destroyed.

The wrath of LORD is upon the people due to it's prophets and priests. 
Lamentations 4:13 But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
    and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her
    the blood of the righteous.
Their hands unclean, and defiled with blood. They show no honor to elders. 

The punishment of Zion is now complete. The ruin of the Edomites and the end of it's wickedness is predicted. Jerusalem, in an ironic invitation towards Daughter Edom, invites her to rejoice, drink and be naked. 

Nobody should even think about rebelling against the LORD, despite their social status or background. Rebellion against LORD's holiness will lead to disaster.

Lamentations 3

Tucked away in the middle chapter is the central message - Hope. This chapter has 66 verses and is organized as below:
  • The Judge [1-21].
  • Remembrance of LORD's mercies [22-36].
  • Zion, sin confessed [37-51].
As a man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath, LORD has brought Jerusalem into darkness and old age. He is not listening anymore to her prayers. He pierced her heart with arrows and now she is a laughing stock of all her people, who mock her in songs. 

She has been hurt, deprived of peace and forgot what prosperity is. She has hope in the LORD: 
Lamentations 3:22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
    for His compassion never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for Him.
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him,
    to the one who seeks Him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the LORD.
There is call for repentance and prayer for vengeance upon the enemies.

A conviction that LORD is in the midst of us, during times of pain, can bring us peace and serenity. 

Lamentations 2

This chapter speaks about the LORD's anger, and the verses are divided into"
  • The Judge [1-13].
  • Zion - sin not confessed [14].
  • Recrimination of passers by, the Prayer [15-22].
LORD's anger has covered the daughter of Zion. With no pity, He has swallowed up the dwellings of Israel. He has withdrawn His right hand.  He has pour out his wrath like fire which burned Judah. Like an enemy, He has swallowed up Israel, and taken away His tabernacle. His presence has now departed. Throughout Zion, feasts and festivities have been forgotten.

The elders of Zion sit in silence, wearing sackcloth casting dust on their heads. Women and infants torment and faint.

LORD had done what He planned.
Lamentations 2:17 The LORD has done what He planned;
    He has fulfilled his word,
    which He decreed long ago.
He has overthrown you without pity,
    He has let the enemy gloat over you,
    He has exalted the horn of your foes.
Hopefully, this suffering will lead towards their turning back towards Him. 

Lamentations 1

The first lament focuses on Jerusalem's plight. This is how the chapter is broken down, by verse:

  • The Judgments of Zion [1-7].
  • The Confession of Zion [8-13].
  • The Appeal to Passers By [14-22].

Jerusalem city sits in solitary, like a widow, who once had full of people, but is almost empty now. Continued sin and rebellion of her people against the LORD has caused her this loneliness and disaster.

Her beauty has disappeared, and her nakedness has been exposed, which courts dishonor. She sits in distress weeping, and nobody is around to comfort her. She wants the entire world to learn from her mistakes.
Lamentations 1:8 “The LORD is righteous,
    yet I rebelled against his command.
Listen, all you peoples;
    look on my suffering.
My young men and young women
    have gone into exile.
The daughter of Judah is crushed as in a winepress.

Lesson learned: Entrenched wickedness leads everyone towards great agony. 

Lamentations - An executive summary

Executive Summary
The Book of Lamentations is a collection of 5 poems. Each poem is represented by a different chapter. The original 4 poems in Hebrew contain acrostic - each verse starting with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of those 4 chapters contain 22 verses each.

The poem is a figurative conversation between Jerusalem and the author - Prophet Jeremiah, as most believe it to be. Prophet Jeremiah understands that the Babylonians were LORD’s tool for bringing judgment upon Jerusalem.

In this book, he laments over the destruction, and his lamentation makes it clear that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were stubborn in repenting and continued in their sinful lifestyle of idolatry, even after LORD sent them many prophets. Lamentations is the eulogy for the fall of Jerusalem.

There is still hope for the nation of Israel and Jerusalem to be restored if the people repent and turn back to God.

Jeremiah 52

The final chapter of Jeremiah gives an account of the defeat of King Zedekiah by the Babylonians. When the Babylonians lay siege around Jerusalem, there was a famine and they had no food to eat. Therefore, the army of Zedekiah broke through the the walls of Jerusalem and fled though the Babylonian soldiers were outside. The Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and captured him. His sons and officials of Judah were killed before his eyes. Zedekiah's eyes were gouged and he was bound with bronze shackles. He was later taken to prison, till his last day.

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, along with Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, came to Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 52:13 He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 14 The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. 
They then took people captive. The poorest of poor were not taken captive, but given vineyards and fields.
The temple of the LORD, built by King Solomon was broken down, all the gold, silver and bronze, along with articles used in the temple was taken to Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:19 The commander of the imperial guard took away the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, lampstands, dishes and bowls used for drink offerings—all that were made of pure gold or silver.
In all, 4,600 people were taken into captivity.
Jeremiah 52:28 This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile:
in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews;
29 in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year,
832 people from Jerusalem;
30 in his twenty-third year,
745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard.
There were 4,600 people in all.
Jehoiachin was released from prison in the the 37th year of his exile, ate regularly at the king's table, and was given a regular allowance till his death.

My Thoughts
The Book of Jeremiah has been a long one, packed with lots of details. 

Jeremiah 51

Jeremiah continues speaking about the destruction of Babylon, in this chapter.
Jeremiah 51:7 Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand;
    she made the whole earth drunk.
The nations drank her wine;
    therefore they have now gone mad.
8 Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken.
    Wail over her!
Get balm for her pain;
    perhaps she can be healed.
Babylon will be destroyed by the Medes and everything shall be broken into pieces. The daughter of Babylon is like threshing floor, it is time to thresh her. Babylon will be brought as a lamb to the slaughter; it will become a dwelling place for dragons.
58 This is what the LORD Almighty says:
“Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled
    and her high gates set on fire;
the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,
    the nations’ labor is only fuel for the flames.”
Jeremiah wrote all these disasters on a scroll and instructed Seraiah, the chief priest, to read this prophecy in Babylon, then bind a stone to the prophecy and throw it in the Euphrates to demonstrate that Babylon shall sink.

Jeremiah 50

Prophet Jeremiah does not spare Babylon in his prophecy. He spoke about the fall of Babylon - at the hands of a nation from the north.
Jeremiah 50:3 A nation from the north will attack her
    and lay waste her land.
No one will live in it;
    both people and animals will flee away.
At that time, people of Judah and Israel combined, will go seek their LORD.

Once Babylon has conquered and destroyed many nations, they will then be be punished for their own sins and idolatry. The entire world will tremble at this news.
Jeremiah 50:46 At the sound of Babylon’s capture the earth will tremble;
    its cry will resound among the nations.

Jeremiah 49

Jeremiah proclaimed about LORD's judgment on Ammonites, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, and Elam. LORD will send the Babylonians to attack all these nations and to punish them for their sins.

The time of destruction will be appointed by the LORD.

Edom's fall is compared to that of Sodom and Gomorrah).
Jeremiah 49:18 As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown,
    along with their neighboring towns,”
says the Lord,
“so no one will live there;
    no people will dwell in it.
19 “Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets
    to a rich pastureland,
I will chase Edom from its land in an instant.
    Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this?
Who is like me and who can challenge me?
    And what shepherd can stand against me?” 

Jeremiah 48

Due to the their sins related to idolatry, this time Jeremiah’s prophecy is concerning the invasion and destruction of Moab, by the Babylonians.
Jeremiah 48:4 Moab will be broken;
    her little ones will cry out.
5 They go up the hill to Luhith,
    weeping bitterly as they go;
on the road down to Horonaim
    anguished cries over the destruction are heard.
Moab is being punished for it's arrogance and pride - they used to be a peaceful country, but now they trust in their deeds and riches. Chemosh is their main idol, to whom they offer their children as human sacrifice. 

LORD's advice is to live like a dove.
Jeremiah 48:28 Abandon your towns and dwell among the rocks,
    you who live in Moab.
Be like a dove that makes its nest
    at the mouth of a cave.
Babylonians will destroy Moab, but LORD will restore the fortunes of Moab at a later time. 
Jeremiah 48:46 Woe to you, Moab!
    The people of Chemosh are destroyed;
your sons are taken into exile
    and your daughters into captivity.
47 “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
    in days to come,”
declares the LORD.
Here ends the judgment on Moab.

Jeremiah 47

Jeremiah prophesied a message regarding the Philistines, who were the enemies of Israel.
Jeremiah 47:4 For the day has come
    to destroy all the Philistines
and to remove all survivors
    who could help Tyre and Sidon.
The LORD is about to destroy the Philistines,
    the remnant from the coasts of Caphtor.
The Babylonians are compared to an overflowing flood.

Jeremiah 46

This chapter is about a prophecy regarding Egypt and those Jews

Jeremiah saw Pharaoh Necho's preparation towards the battle of Carchemish. They were beaming with confidence of victory. The Egyptian army is like a river overflowing its banks. The prophet predicts that they will be defeated and overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar after his siege of Tyre.
Jeremiah 46:25 The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh. 26 I will give them into the hands of those who want to kill them—Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past,” declares the LORD.
LORD will restore Israelites at a later time, but now He will punish them for their sins so that they will repent and turn back to him.
Jeremiah 46:28 Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant,
    for I am with you,” declares the LORD.
“Though I completely destroy all the nations
    among which I scatter you,
    I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only in due measure;
    I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”

Jeremiah 45

In this short chapter, LORD spoke to Baruch - who read Jeremiah's prophecies in the temple, earlier in Chapter 36. This message is regarding the destruction of Judah.

LORD told Baruch not to hope for materialistic wealth because he read Jeremiah's scroll to the people and at the palace. Instead, LORD promised to preserve his life wherever he went.

Jeremiah 44

After moving into Egypt, the Jews indulged in idolatry practices in a new style - the Egyptian way. LORD's word came to Jeremiah which was meant to be spoken to those Jews in Egypt.
Jeremiah 44:4 Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!
LORD asked them, whether they want to arouse His anger once again.
Jeremiah 44:9 Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your ancestors and by the kings and queens of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? 
The people were not willing to listen to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 44:15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present - a large assembly - and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
The Jewish women backed up their husbands and encouraged them to indulge in the Egyptian style idol worship.
Jeremiah 44:19 The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”
Jeremiah tried convincing them not to go that route, but his efforts yielded no results. Majority of them were enjoying the new practice and defended their practice using their tooth and claw. He then warned them that they will be killed in Egypt and LORD will not hear their cries anymore because of their disobedience. He also prophesied that a very small number of people will eventually return to Judah, and others will perish in Egypt.

Other Info
Worshiping St Mary as the 'Queen of Heaven' is equated to this chapter in Old Testament - a debate topic, based on Jeremiah 44.

Jeremiah 43

When Jeremiah shared his prophecy with the leaders, they said, “You are lying! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’" They accused Jeremiah to be acting on behalf of Baruch, who wrote down his prophecies earlier.

In disobedience to the LORD, they took everyone to Egypt and forced Jeremiah and Baruch along with them.

In another prophecy, LORD commanded Jeremiah to place stones at the entry of the Pharoah’s house, and said that Nebuchadnezzar shall set his throne on them.
Jeremiah 43:10 Then say to them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them. 11 He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. 12 He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive. As a shepherd picks his garment clean of lice, so he will pick Egypt clean and depart. 13 There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.’”

Jeremiah 42

Johanan and other army officers asked Jeremiah for a message from and LORD as they were perplexed about what to do next, and where to go. After praying of 10 days, LORD gave a message to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 42:9 He said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: 10 ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the LORD, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. 12 I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’
LORD warned them against going to Egypt - His anger will be upon those who go to Egypt, and they will never ever see the place again.

Jeremiah knew the hypocrisy of these people - deep inside their hearts, they were stubborn and persisted in going towards Egypt.

Jeremiah 41

Ishmael along with his 10 men came to meet Gedaliah, the governor. While eating together, Ishmael and his men assassinated Gedaliah and all others who were with him.

The next day, while nobody knew about this assassination, 80 men came on a pilgrimage to the house of the LORD. Ishmael welcomed them in the name of Gedaliah, and killed 70 of them and put their bodies into a cistern. He spared the other 10 who had knowledge about some hidden food, barley, olive oil and honey. Ishmael then took captives the rest of the people in Mizpah.

When Johanan heard the news about this murder, he chased them and recovered those captives. Ishmael and his men escaped to the Ammonites. Johanan and the army officials led the people to Egypt as they were afraid of the Babylonians since Ishmael had killed Gedalah.

Jeremiah 40

The commander of imperial guard found Jeremiah chained among other captives to be taken to Babylon and set him free.
Jeremiah 40:2 When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The LORD your God decreed this disaster for this place. 3 And now the LORD has brought it about; He has done just as He said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the LORD and did not obey Him. 4 But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.” 5 However, before Jeremiah turned to go,[a] Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.”
Nebuzaradan gave provisions and a present to Jeremiah. After Jeremiah was freed, he went to stay with Gedaliah.

When people found out that Gedaliah son of Ahikam, was appointed governor over towns of Judah, Jews from other countries came back to Jerusalem. Those who stayed had a rich harvest of wine and summer fruits from the fields.

Johanan came to governor Gedaliah and said that King Baalis of Ammon had sent Ishmael to kill him. Johanan was planing to go kill Ishmael due to this reason. However, Gedalish rebuked him.

Jeremiah 39

The year is 587 BC. Finally, the day arrived as Jeremiah prophesied - Babylon took Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar's army broke through the walls of Jerusalem after the siege. King Zedekiah and his soldiers tried to flee, but the Babylonians captured him and brought  him to King Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah’s sons killed in front of him, and his eyes were gouged out before they took him captive to Babylon.
The Babylonians then burnt down Zedekiah’s palace along with houses of people. The army broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Survivors were taken into exile to Babylon. Those poor people, who had nothing, were left behind. Nebuzaradan, the commander of imperial guard, provided vineyards and fields to those poor people.

King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded Nebuzaradan to provide Jeremiah with all his needs.
Jeremiah 39:11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: 12 “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.”
Jeremiah was taken back to his home, and he remained among his people. He later met Ebed-Melek the Cushite, who was told by the LORD, not to fear.
Jeremiah 39:17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in Me, declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah, due to his prophecies, was seen as siding with the Babylonians. When he said, "Go with the Babylonians if you want to live", military officials saw him to be discouraging the army who fought back and did their best to protect the city.
Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
He was taken and lowered into a cistern that had no water, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, saw this and reported to the king who in turn commanded him to take 30 men to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern.
Jeremiah 38:13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Once Jeremiah was pulled out of the cistern, King Zedekiah asked him if the LORD had a message for him. Jeremiah, once again, gave him the same reply - he and his family will survive if he surrendered to the Babylonians. Also, he told Zedekiah that Jerusalem will be delivered into the hands of the Babylonians.

Zedekiah told Jeremiah to keep their conversation a secret otherwise he may die. Jeremiah kept the conversation secret from the officials.
Jeremiah 38:28 And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.

Additional Info:
The officials lowered Jeremiah into a muddy cistern hoping he would die and slow and agonizing death. Ebed-Melek was an Ethiopian eunuch in service to the king. In those days, eunuchs were often used to guard or serve the king’s women. Ebed-Melek, when he heard about Jeremiah's fate, went to his king and asked to save Jeremiah. He realized the evil of letting Jeremiah starve to death. The king let Ebed-Melek save Jeremiah out of the cistern. Ebed-Melek took 30 men with him, lowered some old tattered rags and rope down to Jeremiah in the cistern, and told him "put the old tattered rags between your armpits and the ropes." Jeremiah was then pulled out of the cistern. Later, Jeremiah informed Ebed-Melek that his life would be spared when the Babylonians took over Jerusalem, because of his trust in the Lord (Jeremiah 39:15-18).

My Thoughts
Ebed-Melek, the Cushite, is a good man. If we encounter anyone who is in need of help, we should not ignore them; by ignoring them, we are committing a sin. We should ask ourselves, "How would I like to be in that very situation", and help them come out of it. This is based on the Bible commandment, 'love one another as much as you love yourself.'

While engaging in such helpful situations, never do it with the intention of letting others know, or to fetch ourselves a good name. To reap full benefits of such help provided, it should be done in total secrecy, where LORD is the only witnesses to our good deeds.

Jeremiah 37

Babylonians retreated from their siege when they learned about the approaching Egyptian army. Jeremiah indicated this was temporary, and the Babylonian army will burn down the city eventually.

He then went to claim his property in the land of Benjamin, where he was arrested by the captain of the guard. They were angry with Jeremiah, had him beaten and put him in dungeon, where he remained for a long time.

King Zedekiah inquired Jeremiah while he was in the dungeon if LORD had a message for him. In turn, Jeremiah replied that King Zedekiah will be handed over to the king of Babylon. He also pleaded not to sent him back to the dungeon, as he had not committed any crime.
Jeremiah 37:21 King Zedekiah then gave orders for Jeremiah to be placed in the courtyard of the guard and given a loaf of bread from the street of the bakers each day until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Jeremiah 36

LORD instruct Jeremiah to write down all those words He had spoken to him, concerning Israel, Judah, and other nations from the time He began speaking to him. LORD was hoping:
Jeremiah 36:3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.
Jeremiah called Baruch and used him as his scribe, dictating all those words LORD spoke to him. Since he had restrictions going to the LORD's temple, he asked Baruch to go there on a day of fasting and read all that was dictated - hoping people will turn from their wicked ways.

When the officials came to know about the scroll, they asked Baruch to read the scroll to them. They also inquired Baruch, he wrote it - to which he said Jeremiah dictated them. They took the scroll from him and asked Baruch and Jeremiah to go in hiding. Next, they reported all these to the king Jehoiakim.

The king became furious, disregarded the Word of LORD, and had the scroll thrown into fire. He ordered Jeremiah and Baruch to be seized. but the LORD concealed them. LORD commanded Jeremiah to have a second scroll written, since the first scroll was burned.

Jeremiah 35

This is a wonderful chapter that narrates the story of obedience regarding the family of Rekabites.

LORD commanded Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 35:2 “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink.”
Jeremiah brought the whole family of Rekabites into the house of the LORD, seated them in a room next to the officials and said, "Drink some wine."
Jeremiah 35:6 But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. 7 Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’ 8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine 9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. 10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab commanded us.
LORD compared the obedience of the Rechabites with that of the Israelites. The Israelites have shown disobedience to LORD's commandments even after LORD sending numerous prophets to convey the message. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jeremiah 34

While King Nebuchadnezzar is forming siege around Jerusalem, word from the LORD comes to Jeremiah. He is asked to go speak to King Zedekiah that LORD is about to give the city into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. King Zedekiah will be given into his hands, but will not be harmed. He will be taken into exile and will die peacefully.

Based on another prophecy, Zedekiah made a covenant with the people proclaiming freedom for their slaves. They were released in time of danger. However, people changed their minds later.
Jeremiah 34:11 But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
LORD was not happy at all. He threatened them for breaking their promise - it is considered as a sin. Those who broke the covenant will face sword, pestilence, and famine.
Jeremiah 34:17 “Therefore this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed Me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the LORD - ‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.

The city of Judah will be burned down, and it will lay as a wasteland so that nobody can live there.

Additional Info
Back in 2011, there was a news clipping - a man died in a house fire. Among the debris was a charred Bible, open to Jeremiah 34. Tap here to read that news. 

Jeremiah 33

Jeremiah is still in the prison, LORD's word came to him a second time.
Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ 
LORD told him that several unfortunate things are going to happen to the city. It will be burned down, and not fit to live in - dead bodies of people will fill the city.

He will restore it later.
Jeremiah 33:6 “‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. 7 I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity[b] and will rebuild them as they were before. 8 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. 9 Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’
He will have compassion towards His people, once they repent and turn back towards Him, ensuring happiness and stability.

Jeremiah 32

While King King Nebuchadnezzar had set up siege to takeover Jerusalem, LORD wanted to encourage people about His promise. His promise was that He will bring them back to the same land after 70 years.

Jeremiah, due to his prophesy, was imprisoned by the king Zedekiah of Judah. LORD told him to buy the field from his cousin, Hanamel in Jerusalem. The documents that recorded the purchase were put in a jar so that they would last for a long time. He gave them something to hope for.
Jeremiah 32:4 ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 
He promised that further lands will be brought in this land at the time He restores their fortunes.

Jeremiah 31

LORD now talks about Israel's restoration. He loves His people very much.
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
His promise is to bring them back to Jerusalem after 70 years. Once they are back, they will be happy again.
Jeremiah 31:23 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns - farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Rachel is represented as rising from her tomb, lamenting, but being consoled by thoughts of restoration. Ephraim repents, and is reconciled. Peace and prosperity returns to the posterity of Jacob – no more sour grapes.

Jeremiah 30

LORD commanded Jeremiah to document all that He told him in a book - so that they will have these words when they return from their captivity.
Jeremiah 30:11 I am with you and will save you,’
    declares the LORD.
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
    among which I scatter you,
    I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only in due measure;
    I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’
LORD will eventually restore their health. LORD also promised that He will choose a ruler among their own people as their ruler - Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 29

LORD commanded Jeremiah to write a letter to those surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

The message conveyed in the letter was to build house, plant gardens, settle down, have children, increase in number, and pray for peace of Babylon. There was a word of caution in it -
Jeremiah 29:8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.
There is a beautiful message in the letter, that is true about LORD.
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart
He would later bring them back to Jerusalem after a period of 70 years.

Jeremiah speaks against two false prophets, Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekaih, the son of Maaseiah, who prophesied a speedy end to the captivity. He also rebukes Shemaiah the Nehelamite, who complains about Jeremiah’s message.

My Thoughts
In that letter to captives, LORD gave them the key how to find Him.

Walking with Mary - Day 6

We asked Mary about her experience of meeting Angel Gabriel. In a nutshell, this is what we understood.

Mary was highly favored. God was with her. Mary was a young woman of outstanding moral and spiritual character.

Mary was submissive to God. She worried so much about how to break the news of her pregnancy. Several emotions churned through her mind and many thoughts crossed her mind. She expected Joseph to treat her badly when she shared her pregnancy news. She was afraid she may lose Joseph in that process. She must have counted to be a social outcast, with no idea how she would raise her Child.

Yet, she told Angel Gabriel - "May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38).

As a woman of faith, she ran many miles from Nazareth to the hills of Judea - she had to see Elizabeth!

Yeah, we did not get an opportunity to come spend time here yesterday - remember, we were with Joseph and Mary, on the road. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jeremiah 28

There is a new false prophet in town called Hananiah. In front of the leaders, priests and people, Hananiah prophesied that exiles will be released from Babylon in two years. Jeremiah confronted him and wished the words of the false prophet came true.
Jeremiah 28:10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, 11 and he said before all the people, “This is what the LORD says: ‘In the same way I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.’” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.
LORD's word came to Jeremiah and told him that an iron yoke will be put upon those nations to serve Nebuchadnezzar. Hananiah's death was prophesied and he died in seven months, as a punishment for his rebellion against the LORD. 

Jeremiah 27

During the reign of Jehoiakim, LORD told Jeremiah to make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on his neck. He was then asked to send messages to those neighboring countries not to wage a war against Babylon.

Whoever did not submit their kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar will be punished by the LORD. Those nations who bow down to Babylon will be allowed to stay in their land.

There is further warning about false prophets and dreamers. Finally, those taken into captivity will be brought back at a later time.

Jeremiah 26

Jeremiah stood at the temple entrance and preached that Jerusalem will be destroyed like Shiloh, if they did not repent and turn back to the LORD. Those priests and prophets who heard this, surrounded Jeremiah and threatened to kill him.
Jeremiah 26:11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”
Jeremiah told them they were free to do anything with him. If they killed him, his blood would be upon their hands and the LORD had brought him to speak.

The church elders stepped up and spoke on behalf of Jeremiah saying, "King Hezekiah did not put the prophet, Micah to death when he prophesied the same thing but sought God and God eventually did not send the disasters as he had planned."

Then there was a man named Uriah, who prophesied on the same lines, and fled to Egypt, but King Jehoiakim had him killed. Ahikam stood at the side of Jeremiah and supported him so that he was not sentenced to death.

My Thoughts
When does someone gather that courage to face death? Defending the LORD gives us immense courage to face death. Reviewing the history of those Martyrs, Apostles and disciples, what they all had in common was that rock solid faith and trust in the LORD. They knew this was not the end, and they accepted that garland of death courageously. The confidence we get when we are truthful - magnify that with 10,000, which will numb any pain and enable us to face death courageously. .

Jeremiah told the temple authorities to go ahead and kill him. This time, he had the courage to say so.

Jeremiah 25

Jeremiah prophesied about LORD's anger again and again - they did not listen. LORD sent several prophets and still they paid no attention. All of those prophets echoed LORD's words:
Jeremiah 25:6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” 
Jeremiah prophesied that LORD will punish Israelites in exile for 70 years before bringing them back to Jerusalem. LORD further promised that at the end of 70 years, Babylon itself will be punished.

The next section speaks about the cup of LORD's wrath. His anger is towards all the nations of the world. LORD is starting to discipline all nations, starting with his nation first.
Jeremiah 25:27 “Then tell them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.’ 28 But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears My Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword on all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.’
On that day, the dead shall not have the privilege to be lamented or buried.

Jeremiah 24

LORD showed Jeremiah a vision that contained two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD.
Jeremiah 24:2 One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.
LORD explained to Jeremiah that those good figs represented God explained that the good figs represented those exiles to Babylonia whom he will bring back to Jerusalem one day after they repent.

Those bad figs represented King Zedekiah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whom He will punish with sword, famine and plague, until they were destroyed from the land.

Jeremiah 23

This chapter speaks about those corrupt religious leaders who have scattered the sheep from LORD's pasture.

There is a prophesy about the rise of a Righteous King from the branch of David - Jesus Christ.

LORD condemns those false prophets who prophesy lies, by saying there will be peace when LORD is warning them there will be disasters, if they don’t repent and turn towards Him.

Jeremiah 22

This chapter gives a judgement against wicked kings. LORD condemns Jehoiakim’s palace because he used unfair means to gain wealth. Further, he did not pay his workers for their labors in building the palace. The prophecy said that the palace will be ruined.
Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 
The LORD continues...
Jeremiah 22:5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’
The prophecy regarding his burial:
Jeremiah 22:18 Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“They will not mourn for him:
    ‘Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!’
They will not mourn for him:
    ‘Alas, my master! Alas, his splendor!’
19 He will have the burial of a donkey - 
    dragged away and thrown
    outside the gates of Jerusalem.”
LORD condemned Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoaiakim. Jeremiah prophesied that they will be taken into exile and never to return to their homeland.
Jeremiah 22:24 “As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on My right hand, I would still pull you off. 25 I will deliver you into the hands of those who want to kill you, those you fear - Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the Babylonians.

My Thoughts
Righteousness = Doing what is just and right. 

Jeremiah 21

The reality is here, and in the year 587 BC, Jerusalem is under siege. King Zedekiah of Judah sent two priests to inquire with the LORD.

Prophet Jeremiah answered them saying Jerusalem and Judah will fall into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. LORD gave two options - to live, or to die. They could either stay in the city and die, or surrender to King Nebuchadnezzar and be taken into exile alive.
Jeremiah 21:8 “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the LORD. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
LORD then commanded the officials of Judah to administer justice - else His anger will burn their city down, by the enemy.

Jeremiah 20

The prophesy Jeremiah made at the temple landed him in trouble. The priest beat and put Jeremiah in stock because he prophesied about the doom of Jerusalem and towns of Judah. When Jeremiah was released from the stock, he cursed the priest.
Jeremiah 20:6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.
Jeremiah then turns to the LORD and pours out his heart to the LORD. Whenever he makes a prophecy, he is being humiliated.
Jeremiah 20:7 You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived;
    You overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
    everyone mocks me.
All his friends have abandoned him. Now he felt that even LORD had abandoned him - He had promised to back him up. Anyone reading this chapter can find Jeremiah's mind oscillating between his love for LORD and the doubt that is in his heart.

At one point, he sings for the LORD,
Jeremiah 20:13 Sing to the LORD!
    Give praise to the LORD!
He rescues the life of the needy
    from the hands of the wicked.
In the next instance, he curses the day he was born - just like how Job did, when inflicted with pain and troubles.
Jeremiah 20:14 Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
He wished he was never born so that he don’t have to face all these persecution from the people of Judah.

My Thoughts
One has to be in Jeremiah's shoes to understand what he is going through.

Those who try to do what is right are guaranteed to face trouble. At first, people will desert them. Then their close friends will be nowhere around them. Finally they will be all alone (of course, LORD is with such individuals). They will then start hearing criticism and slander. That is when their faith in the LORD is being tested. Reading the true stories of prophets helps to strengthen the faith.

On our way, we will meet people who somehow manage to look 'the other side' when they have to speak up for the truth. Such individuals will not face any further threats/challenges. They just do not possess the strength to stand up for what is right.  

Jeremiah 19

LORD asked Jeremiah to perform a demonstration in the full view of the people. He was asked to buy a jar from the potter, then holding it in his hands, he was told to prophesy about the upcoming disaster.
Jeremiah 19:3 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.
Then smashing the jar onto the ground, he spoke the following words on behalf of LORD, "‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired."

Corpses of Israelites will fill the Valley of Ben Hinnom and it will be called 'Valley of Slaughter'. This is because the Israelites worshiped many idols at that place, and offered numerous sacrifices to those gods.

Jeremiah also went to the temple of the LORD and made a statement:
Jeremiah 19:15 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”

Jeremiah 18

Using the incident of a potter shaping a pot into another form of pot due to an error that was caused on the whee, LORD explains to the people that He holds the power to shape them into whatever form He desires. 
Jeremiah 18:6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, Israel.
Jeremiah goes on and speaks to his people the message he received from the LORD. He makes yet another plea towards his people to repent. 
Jeremiah 18:11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 
The people do not like to be corrected. Instead of correcting themselves, they are looking at means to silence Jeremiah. 
Jeremiah 18:18 They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.”
Jeremiah became very upset when he heard people conspiring against him, while he was pleading to LORD on their behalf. Now, he prays not to show mercy upon his enemies. 

Jeremiah 17

Reflecting upon the spiritual bankruptcy of Judah, and it's fatal inclination towards idolatry, Jeremiah poured out his soul to his people.

LORD says that the sins of the people of Judah will be remembered forever by all the future generations. One day, God will judge each of us according to our motive and actions.
Jeremiah 17:7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
    whose confidence is in Him.
Jeremiah also speaks about the importance of observing Sabbath. It is a sin for us to work on Sabbath. It is also a sin to hire someone to work for us on Sabbath. LORD's law applies to everyone - regardless of whether they are Christians or not.

My Thoughts
On judgement day, LORD will judge every one of us according to our motive and actions. LORD can search and find out what is inside the heart and mind of every person and he will reward everyone as they deserve.

Those who depend upon their own strength or in the strength of other humans are cursed, according to the LORD. This leads them to turn away from the LORD.
Jeremiah 17:5 This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
Looking back, this is how foolishly I had been behaving in the past - trusting in others to get things done. On the other side, it is a blessing to trust in the LORD - it is not easy for us to place that trust in Him - it requires faith.

Jeremiah 16

LORD instructs Prophet Jeremiah not to marry. Remaining single in a society was almost unheard of, at that time. By doing so, he becomes a living symbol of the LORD. He objects Jeremiah having a wife and kids in his hometown because of the punishment that is coming upon their country.

LORD further instructs him not to partake in those joys or sorrows of his neighbors. They will be forgotten during their calamities

If anyone asks Jeremiah why these disasters are happening to them, LORD wants him to say this:
Jeremiah 16:12 But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying Me. 
LORD still has a future plan for them. He has promised that there will be restoration for the Israelites one day, when he will gather them back in Jerusalem, from different places. Jeremiah believed in LORD's words and looked forward for that day.

LORD wants to teach them the hard way:
Jeremiah 16:21 “Therefore I will teach them -
    this time I will teach them
    My power and might.
Then they will know
    that My name is the LORD.

Jeremiah 15

We get to see the extend of anger LORD has upon His people. He conveys the message that he is no longer accepting pleas on behalf of Israel, ven if the prophets, Samuel and Moses, come before Him. He has made up His mind about the punishment.
Jeremiah 15:15 Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from My presence! Let them go!..."
He is ready to lead them to death, sword, starvation and captivity. For that, He will send four kinds of destroyers.

We then see Jeremiah grumbling for the distress that has come him. In deep suffering, he comes towards the LORD. For his faithful service, he is receiving payback in the form of hatred, and his life has turned into a misery. Jeremiah is in trouble. He asks why all these are happening to him, as he has led a straight forward life.
Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them;
    they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear Your name,
    LORD God Almighty.
17 I never sat in the company of revelers,
    never made merry with them;
I sat alone because Your hand was on me
    and You had filled me with indignation.
LORD promised to protect Jeremiah and rescue him from the enemies if he obeyed Him and continued preaching His message.
Jeremiah 15:21 “I will save you from the hands of the wicked
    and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Walking with Mary - Day 4

We are walking on the road that took Joseph and Mary on that momentous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Now, there are two routes by which they would have taken:
- One through the Jezreel Valley, then through the hills of Samaria into Judaea. This is more of a straight-line route, but is physically demanding, with constant ups and downs through the hills. This route also went directly through Samaritan country, and Jews had no dealings with Samaritans those days.

- Second is travelling southeast across the Jezreel Valley that connected with the Jordan Valley. Then, all the way to Jericho, through the Desert of Jueda, into Bethlehem. This is the most probable route which Joseph and Mary most likely traveled.

My research tells me both routes to be more or less ninety-two (92) miles long (80 miles was an approximation).

Speaking about weather, it can get quite chilly at night as the season is early spring. Considering the Jordan Valley to be below sea level temperatures would be mild and pleasant.

It will be a tiring journey for anyone, and special care and consideration should be reserved for Mary, who is pregnant approaching her due date. We gotta worry where we would camp each night, and also about food and water.

How about one of us get the food and water. The donkey can carry only so much luggage. Shall one of us carry all those luggage and tent material, so that it is bit lighter for Joseph to walk.

Food for thought: If we have shortage for food and water, are we willing to sacrifice one meal a day for the sake of this couple? If there is shortage for place to sleep, are we ready to stay guard during the night? How about taking some load off of them - any volunteers?