Jeremiah 38-40

Jeremiah 38-40…The Fall of Jerusalem

Jeremiah records the fall of Jerusalem twice in his book, and Jeremiah 39 is the first account of it. Commentators believe he recorded the event twice in order to mark the end of the portion containing the prophecies given to Judah before it fell to Babylon (chap. 39) and then to conclude the book, somewhat ironically, on a note of hope, as we will see next week (chap. 52). In any case, Jerusalem’s fall was the final act in Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of the city after Zedekiah rebelled against the empire. It actually took Babylon about two years to conquer Jerusalem. Although the empire came against Zedekiah and the city as soon as the king rejected its status as a client state of the Babylonian empire, there was a temporary reprieve when Egypt intervened. But once Egypt had been beaten back, the siege resumed in earnest and Jerusalem fell, fulfilling God’s warning that Babylon would capture the nation if His people did not repent (2 Kings 24:18–25:7; Jer. 32:1–2; 37:1–5; 39).

Ancient empires commonly used siege warfare to subdue a people, surrounding a city and effectively imprisoning its citizens within its walls. Without access to farms and wells outside the city walls, the people eventually used up the limited supplies of food and water, and both famine and pestilence ensued. Eventually, the people were too weak to resist any longer, and the army that was besieging the city would break through and conquer it. This is exactly what happened when Babylon conquered Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3; Jer. 38:2). In keeping with ancient practices of shaming an enemy, Babylon slaughtered King Zedekiah’s sons and advisors, fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy that a refusal to surrender to Babylon would bring about the end of the house of Zedekiah (Jer. 39:6–8; see 38:17–23).

Zedekiah and his court fell to Babylon because of their faithlessness, but God did not overlook the service of Jeremiah and his friends. We read in today’s passage of how Nebuchadnezzar kept Jeremiah safe, ordering his captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, to take good care of the prophet. Jeremiah was entrusted into the care of Gedaliah, the governor Babylon left behind to rule over the few impoverished Judahites that Nebuchadnezzar allowed to stay in Judah after he carried the vast majority of Jews into exile (39:10–14; see 2 Kings 25:22).

But God was also faithful to Gentiles who believed in Him. The Lord also preserved the life of Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian who helped rescue Jeremiah from the cistern (Jer. 39:15– 18; see 38:7–13). Our Creator is no respecter of persons but will save all who trust Him.

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Psalms 56-60

Psalms 56-60…Praying in anguish.

A person who is facing a crisis, not of war, but of intense spiritual turmoil, knows that situations like the ones outlined in Psalms 56-60 do in fact try our souls. And in times like these we learn the difference between being a “sunshine patriot” who shrinks back from trouble, and a soldier who stands strong during the conflict and experiences the joy of winning something of priceless value.

It’s safe to say that most people who have prayed consistently have had times of agonizing prayer. This is another side of prayer we need to explore. It’s much more exciting to talk about answered prayer and prayer that flows out of deep joy. But there is also power in the prayer that comes from an anguished heart, when it seems that God is far away and the problem is pressing us to our limits.

David was no stranger to trouble himself. He had real enemies with real weapons hounding him. Even though most of us haven’t faced that reality, who hasn’t expressed wishes like the ones David does in these Psalms? We believe that honest, trustful, tenacious prayer in times of pain provides us with that refuge. And we believe this because we know that our God is faithful and true.

1 Samuel 11-13

1 Samuel 11-13…King Saul is not King Jesus

God’s miraculous calling of Saul as King of Israel is encouraging. Saul was supernaturally changed, and the result was a humble, wise leader, willing to serve God. Saul was used by the Lord even though the desire for Israel to have a King went against the Lord’s ways. Saul led the Israelite army to defeat the Ammonites, and the men of Israel rejoiced greatly at the end of 1 Samuel 11.

Samuel delivers a typical, biblical sermon to the people in 1 Samuel 12, and outlines God’s providential hand on their lives, despite their sin and rebellion. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul shows why he is not the ultimate King. Like all men, he sins, and is therefore only a picture of the true King, who would save people from sin. Saul disobeys the Lord by rushing through the burnt offering process. He didn’t wait for the Lord, and instead of trusting the Lord’s timing and being patient until Samuel arrived, he went on his own. Samuel rebukes Saul; “You have done foolishly.”

How often do we do the same thing? The Lord’s timing is perfect, and He often has us wait so we’ll grow in our trust of Him. This is how He brings glory to Himself. Thankfully, King Jesus trusted the Lord perfectly, so that even our sins of impatience and distrust would be forgiven, if we repent and believe. Do you repent from distrust of the Lord? Consider ways in which you have not trusted Him fully in your life, and turn from your distrust, and pursue contentment in His timing. Preach the gospel to yourself, as a reminder of the fact that you have been given way more than you deserve.

Joshua 13-15

Joshua 13-15…Inheritances and allotments.

Caleb’s words to Joshua demonstrate his faith in the Lord’s promises. He begins by reminding Joshua of the terrible day when God condemned the Israelites to 40 years in the wilderness for refusing, based on the spies’ negative report, to enter Canaan. But God promised to bring Caleb into the land and to give it to his descendants (Num. 14:24). Why was Caleb treated differently? Because he ‘ “brought back word to [Moses] as it was in my heart.… I wholly followed the Lord my God.’ ” He trusted God to deal with the mighty cities and the giants the spies saw. In response, Moses, in a vow not recorded elsewhere in Scripture, promised to give Caleb and his descendants the lands he had scouted.

Now, 45 years later, Caleb can attest that God has kept His promise to preserve him through wilderness and war. So gracious has God been to Caleb that he is as strong spiritually at 85 as at 40. That being the case, he asks not for a safe parcel but for the mountain of the Anakim, the giants who so terrified the other spies, leading to the people’s refusal to enter the land. We can assume that Caleb, observing what stress (the spies) laid upon the difficulty of conquering Hebron, a city ruled by the giants … bravely desired to have that city which they called invincible assigned to himself. With God’s help, Caleb says, he will prove their assessment wrong. Joshua is quick to bless his friend and to grant his request, giving him Hebron and the surrounding area.

Joshua 1-3

Joshua 1-3…God commissions Joshua, Rahab hides the spies, and Israel crosses the Jordan.

According to the Lord’s will, Moses appointed Joshua to succeed him in Deuteronomy 31:1–8, and the He came to Joshua after Moses’ death to confirm this selection and urge him to go forth to take the land (Josh. 1:1–9). In commissioning Joshua to possess Canaan, God was simply calling upon him to live out what He had determined before Joshua was born. Since the Lord swore to give Canaan to His people (v. 6; see Gen. 15), Joshua could be sure that he would be victorious in his quest. After all, God keeps His promises, and He promised to be with Joshua and strengthen him wherever he would go (Josh. 1:5, 9).

This pledge of covenant presence is one of the greatest blessings God gives to His people. It is also a promise given to us today through Christ (Heb. 13:5). Still, we should see that it is a promise to be with us and not a promise to keep our lives free from harm, calamity, or suffering. Indeed, we are guaranteed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but it is likewise certain that our great Shepherd will go through it with us; He will not leave us alone (Ps. 23:4).

Yet God does not promise that we will always feel His presence. Thankfully, our feelings do not determine the truthfulness of His Word, and the Lord is with us whether or not we can feel His presence.

Deuteronomy 26-28

Deuteronomy 26-28…Offerings, the altar at Mount Ebal, and blessings/curses for obedience/disobedience.

There are a number of Old Testament passages that figure prominently in the New Testament. In Galatians 3:10–14, several of them are quoted by Paul, and he uses these Old Testament passages as proof texts for the doctrine that sinners are justified through faith alone. Those who trust in Jesus Christ to save them from their sins understand that it was Jesus’ suffering upon the cross that turned aside God’s wrath and anger. But this was not yet clear in the Old Testament when these passages first appeared.

A key text quoted by Paul in Galatians is Deuteronomy 27:26. Moses writes, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” This passage makes it plain that God is not going to grade the final exam for eternal life on a curve. In order to avoid God’s curse, God demands that we obey His law perfectly. Those who fail to do so come under the wrath of God. That this is what Moses meant becomes clear in Matthew’s gospel, where a rich young man claimed to have obeyed all the commandments. When Jesus exposed him as a law-breaker and therefore subject to the curse, the young man went away with great sorrow. Witnessing this exchange, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Who then can be saved?”. Jesus reminded them that people do not obey God’s law; they cannot save themselves — it is impossible. But all things are possible for God.

This is why the Bible needs to be understood as systematic and interconnected. The Old Testament is rich with clues, riddles, and pictures, all pointing to Christ. We must interpret these Old Testament texts in light of the New Testament, and vice versa. Deuteronomy 26-28 clearly shows that we need a Savior, because we cannot fulfill the law. Thankfully Christ did perfectly, and His life can be counted as ours if we repent and believe in Him.