Perspective

(Today’s post by Keith Senator)

Jeremiah 16:1 – 17:18

indexI was young, maybe 12. I was talking to this lady who told me a story. She was a lot older than me. I think at the time already in her 50s. It went like this: there was a boy who was a teenager. He thought he knew it all. He was really quite full of himself. He thought his dad was an idiot and had completely lost touch with the world we live in. We fast forward to age 21, the same boy was now a man. He ponders back on his youth and states, “it is amazing how much my dad has grown over the last 7 years”.

I am bringing this up because I think a lot has to do with perspective.

I was reading Jeremiah and was not able to really get a gist for the entire book. I needed some reference because I felt like I was too close to the text to really remember even the title of the book. I backed up a couple steps, consulted with some outside reading, looked at a couple of commentaries and went back in with a fresh perspective. Yeah, maybe some would call it cheating, lacking intellectual fortitude, whatever. Here is what I uncovered:

THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH 
SUMMARIZED
Jeremiah 1:1-19: INTRODUCTION – JEREMIAH COMMISSIONED
Jeremiah 2:1-20:18: PROPHECIES TO JUDAH, GENERAL AND UNDATED
First message, Jer 2:1-3:5;
second message, Jer 3:6-6:30;
third message (at Temple gate), Jer 7:1-10:25;
fourth message (the broken covenant), Jer 11:1-12:17;
fifth message (sign of linen girdle), Jer 13:1-27;
sixth message (on the drought), Jer 14:1-15:21;
seventh message (sign of the unmarried prophet), Jer 16:1-17:18);
eighth message (at city gates), Jer 17:19-27;
ninth message (the potter’s vessel), Jer 18;
tenth message (the earthen vessel),Jer 19:1-15;
result, Jer 20:1-18.

Jeremiah 21:1-39:18: PROPHECIES TO JUDAH, PARTICULAR AND DATED.
First (to Zedekiah), Jer 21:1-23:40;
second (after first deportation), Jer 24:1-10;
third (fourth year of Jehoiakim: he coming Babylonian captivity), 25;
third (early reign of Jehoiakim), 26;
fourth (early reign of Jehoiakim), 27-28;
fifth (to captives of first deportation), 29-31;
sixth (tenth year Zedekiah), 32-33;
seventh (during Babylonian siege), 34;
eighth (days of Jehoiakim), 35;
ninth (fourth year Jehoiakim), 36;
tenth (siege), 37;
result 38-39.

Jeremiah 40:1-44:30: PROPHECIES TO JUDAH AFTER FALL OF JERUSALEM.
Babylonian kindly treatment of Jeremiah (Jer 40:1-6);
ill-doings in land of Judaea (Jer 40:7-41:18);
Jeremiah’s message to remnant in the land (Jer 42);
Jeremiah carried down to Egypt (Jer 43:1-7);
first prophetic message in Egypt (Jer 43:8-13);
second prophetic message to Jewish refugees in Egypt (Jer 44:1-30);
result-further rejection of the message by Jewish refugees.

Jeremiah 45:1-51:64: PROPHECIES UPON NINE GENTILE NATIONS.
Preceded by a prefatory note to Baruch the faithful scribe who wrote them (45);
first (against Egypt), Jer 46;
second, (against the Philistines) Jer 47;
third (against Moab), Jer 48;
fourth (against the Ammonites) Jer 49:1-6;
fifth (against Edom), Jer 49:7-22;
sixth (against Damascus), Jer 49:23-27;
seventh (against Kedar and Hazor), Jer 49:28-33;
eighth (against Elam), Jer 49:34-39;
ninth (against Babylon and Chaldea), Jer 50:1-51:64.

Jeremiah 52:1-34: SUPPLEMENT/CONCLUSION – Jerusalem overthrown. 
(Adapted from Baxter’s Explore the Book)

So this looks pretty good. We start to get a glimpse of the overarching idea of the book, now that I am a third of the way through it. What are we reading today? Yes, Jeremiah 16-17:18.

Outline of Background Passage

1. Jeremiah Forbidden to Marry, a Symbol of Judah’s Judgment (16:1-13)

  • God prohibited Jeremiah from having a family (v. 1).
  • The families of Judah would meet with a gruesome end (vv.1-3).
  • The prophet forbidden to mourn for Judah (vv. 4-9).
  • Judah’s ignorance of her own sin (vv. 10-13).

2. God’s Promise of Judah’s Restoration (16:14-21)

  • God will bring his people back to the land he gave to their fathers (vv. 14-15).
  • The Lord will punish Judah, but he will draw the Gentiles to his grace (vv. 16-21).
  • The iniquities of Judah will cause her enemies to hunt her down like a hunter tracks his quarry (vv. 16-18).
  • The Gentile nations will repent of their sins, and the Lord will reveal himself to them (vv. 19-21).

3. Various Warnings to Judah (17:1-27)

  • Judah’s sin could not be erased (vv. 1-4).
  • The Lord’s people must not put their trust in mankind (vv. 5-8).
  • The human heart is deceitfully and desperately wicked (vv. 9-13).
  • Jeremiah prayed for deliverance from persecution (vv. 14-18).

I am sure there are more relevant points than this, but I just gotta go where I am drawn. I see the hand of God still working in the midst of disobedience to protect, shield, and direct. He is warning Jeremiah of what is to come and how to minimize some serious consequences.

I am interested in the people of God only as far as I am interested in God himself and how he interacts with them.
What is the character of God, how do we see His character displayed in this passage?
I see God in this passage in a very similar way I saw him when truly saved.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, in Lithonia Georgia. It was a strict environment. I thought of God as a strict disciplinarian with little regard to my feelings. I saw him as cold, huge, somewhat removed, and impersonal.
I left this church when I went to school and over the years was able to see the character of God in a different light. I saw Him as the creator of all that is similar to before but different. I saw him as the one who holds all things together. I saw him as the object for all praise and adoration. I saw him as the life force that all spins out from. I saw him as essential to the work we live in. You see in this scenario, it is hard to really see what I am saying because if I put my Southern Baptist glasses back on, I would not disagree with any of the above points that I realized later in life. It is the same God.

But you see my perspective changed tremendously. Instead of seeing God as one who would punish me for stepping out of line. Now I see a God who walks with me and removed the scales from my eyes so that I can see. He is not hurting me to get my attention. He is instead always trying to get my attention to look to Him, seek His face, change my direction, to prevent me from the consequences of the alternative.

I must say this, after my years away from home, I returned to find the same church. However, it was different. Actually it was not different at all, I was different. You see it was me. I came back and found life and a personal God in that same Southern Baptist church.

It is a very different perspective.

In this passage we can see God as one in the sky, twisting his mustache on how he will mess with the people for not seeing who he is, how he will break them and force them into submission. Or we can see Him as a loving God who is always providing a way out of misery and pain.

You see, do I see my father God as one who has lost touch with reality and has a lot of work to do to be relevant in this world we live in? Or is it I who must realize who he really is and is it I who needs to change?

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