Monday, January 9, 2017

GREAT PROMISES FROM THE PROPHET JEREMIAH # 2 : Jeremiah 32:17 " Nothing is too hard for you!"

“Ah Lord God! It is you  who have made the heavens and the earth by your great  power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”  [Jer. 32:17]

OUTLINE OF  CHAPTER 32:

1.            Vv. 1-5: Jeremiah is imprisoned for prophesying  the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of king Zedekiah. 

2.               Vv. 6-15:   In these desperate times Jeremiah, by divine  command,  buys  land. God assures him that although times  will  be presently  tough for Israel, he will remain in charge of Israel’s future and therefore Jeremiah may buy this land with confidence. 

3.                  Vv. 16-25:  Jeremiah’s response in prayer, which includes   our text: “Ah Lord God! It is you  who have made the heavens and the earth by your great  power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”  [v.17]. It  is a great affirmation of faith  despite  the fact that things in Israel  do not look good .

4.                  Vv. 26- 44:  The  Word from God  through Jeremiah:
(i)                  32:26-35: Prophesying  the  destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for their sins.
(ii)           32:36-44: At the same time he must assure them that, although the destruction was total, it  will  not be final. God will restore  His people to their land.  With this in mind, we now   consider the historical situation.

 THE HISTORICAL  SITUATION :

Vv. 1-5 : The predicted  fall of Jerusalem is now imminent.   The events that led  to the fall  of  Jerusalem were initiated by  Nebuchadnezzar II,  king of Babylon. In 605 BC  he  defeated the Egyptian  Pharaoh Necho at the Battle of Carchemish. The Egyptians had been in an alliance with  Israel at that point, and  so the defeat of the Egyptians  opened up  the way for Babylonia to  attack  Jerusalem. The first  siege  of Jerusalem happened  in 597 BC.  Following that  siege Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as  a  vassal  king.  However, in time  Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded  again  by invading Judah  and began  the second  siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC, and  which lasted  until 586 BC.  In 586 BC, the 11th  year of Zedekiah's reign, Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem's walls, conquering the city. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape but were captured on the plains of Jericho and taken to Riblah. There, after seeing his sons killed, Zedekiah was blinded, bound, and taken captive to Babylon, where he remained a prisoner until his death. Thereafter,   the  Babylonian general, Nebuzaraddan, was sent to complete  the  destruction of  Jerusalem. The city  was plundered, and Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Most of the Jewish  elite were taken into captivity in Babylon. The city was razed to the ground. Only a few people were permitted to remain  in the  land.  Gedaliah was made governor of the remnant of  the people  under the watchful eye  of a  Babylonian garrison  stationed at Mizpah. On hearing this news, the Jews who were in  exile in the territories  of Moab, Ammon, Edom, and in other countries returned to Judah. Gedaliah was assassinated two months later, and the population that had remained and those who had returned then fled to Egypt[1] for safety,  taking  Jeremiah with them  against his will.[2]  

According to our text we  find ourselves  in  589 BC, at the beginning of the second siege.   The Jews  under king Zedekiah stubbornly offered resistance  against the counsel  of God by his true prophet. The siege   took a long time (11 years).  God's judgment came gradually upon them,  and whilst  the reality of the siege  was unfolding, the Jews   refused  to listen to the true prophet of God. They did not repent. Zedekiah would not listen. In fact he was highly offended   by   Jeremiah– so much that he  has him put into prison for telling the truth. 

Zedekiah chose  to  believe  the  false prophets  (see Chapter 28; 29:24-32) who were in the majority. A majority is not always right.   It takes  intimacy with God to hear His voice above the  popular opinion  and  the noise of the world.  True   believers need to be familiar with the God of the Word, and the Word of God in order to  discern  their times.  The prophet Isaiah   who prophesied  under similar  circumstances   to the northern kingdom,  approximately 150 years earlier, saw   that his people were  abandoning the counsel of their God, seeking the counsel of  occultic mediums and  necromancers, and he   said:  “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they  will not speak according to This Word, it is  because  they have no dawn”  (Isa.  8:19,20).

Vv. 6-15.   And now, whilst  in prison, an extraordinary thing happens.  God commands  Jeremiah  to buy  a piece of ground  from a  cousin  named  Hanamel  in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home town. Imagine  this. You know  that your country is going to be overrun  by an enemy , and  yet  you buy real estate! Is this insane,  or  what?  What moved him to do this? God moved him, although humanly speaking this seemed to be an irrational move.   

A word of explanation is needed  here. Property  in those days was not  available  on the open market.  Property had to stay in the family.  In passing, please note how the transactions  were done in (vv  9-14)  with deed of purchase and  placing the deed of sale in an earthenware vessel  to last a long time! In 70 years (which is a lifetime) things would look very different, and the property would still be in the hands of the “Jeremiah Anathoth” family. A good man always makes sure that there  is  an inheritance  for his children.  The time would come when houses, and fields, and vineyards should be again possessed in this land,  and the family would have  the title deeds (32:15). And so we read  that his  cousin, a  kinsman came to offer it to him. It was not  that Jeremiah had wanted it. It came to him. It may have been a good  bargain, but the point is that he was a family member, and therefore entitled to this purchase.  The right of redemption [3] belonged to him (32:8), and if he refused,  the next family member might be approached. But, being a prophet  there was more to the story than meets the eye.  In this context, purchasing land in  desperate times  was  a statement of faith and  a vote of confidence in the sovereignty  and trustworthiness of God. “Ah Lord God… nothing is too hard for you.”

And so,  Jeremiah leads the way in word and in deed. He leads in faith and by example. In this he exemplifies the nature of the Christian ministry.  
Matthew Henry  comments: “ It concerns ministers to make it to appear in their whole conversation that they do themselves believe that which they preach to others and… impress it the more deeply upon their hearers, they must many a time deny themselves, as Jeremiah did in both these instances. God having promised that this land should again come into the possession of his people, Jeremiah will, on behalf of his heirs, put in for a share. Note, It is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith, and to do common business with an eye to the providence and promise of God.”

Vv. 16-25 Jeremiah's Prayer. This  brings us to this remarkable prayer  of Jeremiah to God. He knows what God is about to do in the short term and the long term. He knows God. And so, after putting the deed  of purchase into safekeeping with  Baruch, he prays.  In this prayer, he begins with:

1.Vv.17-19 - Worship: He  gives God the glory due to his name as the Creator and Sustainer  of the earth.    Here is a great lesson for us. When faced with difficult times and situations, we  do not  look for worldly solutions. We look to Almighty God, and we remind ourselves of who He is. He is   the fountain of all being. He has made the heaven and the earth with his outstretched arm and therefore who can control him? Who can contend with him?  Furthermore, we remind ourselves   that with God nothing is impossible. Nothing is too hard for Him.  He is always in charge. Moreover we remind ourselves that He is   the God who knows how to be merciful. “You show steadfast love to thousands…” (v.18a) but we also remember  that He is also  the God  of absolute holiness and righteousness, and therefore of  inflexible  justice He consistently hates  sin, and He will not  gloss over un-atoned sin. Every generation  that refuses to come to God for  free pardon  must bear the full fury of His wrath (v.18b). “His eyes are open to all the  ways of the children of man…”.  Nothing escapes Him.  Such  a God as this is not to be trifled with and  argued with. He is to be worshipped… He is to be bowed down. You will not conquer Him.He will conquer you!

2. Vv. 20-23: Remembering   the Past Works of the Lord  - His faithfulness.  He remembers how God had brought His people out of Egypt with signs and wonders – with an outreached arm.  He gave them this land, which they now stand to lose,  because of their rebellion.  It is good for us often to reflect upon the great things that God  has done for us  in the past, lest we  forget to be thankful in the present.

3. Vv. 24-25 Understanding the Present:  History provides us with and understanding of the present. God has previously redeemed His people against all human odds. He has previously handed His people over when they had rebelled against Him, as it is now…  “The siege mounds have come up to the city….the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans… what you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it”. Please   note that Jeremiah does not argue with God nor prescribe to God what He should do.  He knows God. He understands that  God  has an ultimate  plan  for good and not for evil (see  29:11). He understands that even in this situation, as challenging as it is,  nothing is too hard for God  (vv.  17,27).

Whatever trouble you are in, personally  as individuals or  corporately as families or as a  nation, know this:  God sees  and  knows how to bring everything towards a good end.  And so ends  the prayer: “ Yet you , oh Lord GOD have said to me, Buy the field for money and get  witnesses- though the city is given into the hands of the  Chaldeans .”  God says, “trust me in this, Jeremiah“.  

The rest of the chapter, from v.36ff  shows us how God intends to do it, but we will keep that for next  week … “ I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And  they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” [ 32:37,38]

APPLICATION

1.      The immediate application is  the historical situation in 589 BC and the  return approximately  70  years  later  in  520 BC under  men like leaders  like  Nehemiah  and Ezra  and prophets like  Haggai and Zechariah.

2.      The application with respect to ourselves are the timeless principles  found  here.  If  the local  church  becomes  faithless,  God  removes her  lampstand (Rev 2:5), but He does not remove the church. “I will build my church , and the gates of hell  will not prevail against it”  (Matt 16:18). Many local churches have come and gone over  the last 2000 years. Many a modern church  no longer holds on to the Word, as false prophets  have  taken the true Word of God  away from the people.  That church will die!  But there is always a remnant of faithful people and they find themselves displaced, as if in exile. But God never ultimately  leaves His people.  He remains the God of mercy and  wrath.  In time He restores His church, but He is not mocked.
God is patient.  We must be patient. God calls us to trust  Him  when things  look less than ideal. We must continue to invest in the kingdom although things look bleak. We must  continue to build biblical churches in  times of unfaithfulness, even  though they are small.

3.      But, in a greater sense Scripture always points towards  an ultimate fulfilLment.   There will come a time  when all the sin of the   earth will be subdued, when Christ comes again, and  when the  kingdom will be the Lord’s. This is what we aim to focus on next week.  Amen!




[1] 2 Ki. 25:25
[2]  Jer. 43
[3] See the book of Ruth 

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