(Today's post by Wayne Bunting)
Jeremiah 42, 43
Earlier in Jeremiah the leaders of Israel sought to rely on Egypt’s help against the onslaught of the Babylonians which were coming for them. Jeremiah spoke against this, and told them to rely on the Lord (a familiar situation and theme from earlier times in Israel); however, they didn’t listen and kept on doing what they wanted. Here in Jeremiah 42-43 the remnant is seen pleading to Jeremiah in their defeated state.
Jeremiah again tells them that they should not rely on Egypt or it will be disastrous for them. It seems from what Jeremiah says in 42:18-22 that the people had not changed in their desires to go their own way. They were pleading with Jeremiah to plead with God for them, yet they were still unwilling to obey the Lord in their hearts after all that they had been through. In 43:2 they answer Jeremiah in the same way in which they answered him earlier, considering him a liar who is not speaking for God. Keep in mind that they are saying all of this after seeing all of the things that Jeremiah said that the Lord would do take place. Their hearts were truly hard.
So what happens ultimately? Babylon, the same nation who God used to judge disobedient Israel, was once again used to judge the remnants of the destruction of Israel whom He had spared. It seems that they were given a second chance, since they were not taken away into exile to Babylon like the rest of Israel. But after they refused to heed what the Lord said through Jeremiah, they suffered the same consequence as the rest of Israel. I think that they thought that Egypt, a powerful nation, would shelter them from the storm. Their desire for Egypt was a symbol of their rebellion and rejection of God, Just as it was previously when other prophets before Jeremiah were sent to deal with Israel’s rebellious desire to turn back from worshiping other gods. The result of Israel’s rebellion was her destruction, and her being taken away to serve under a foreign nation who worshipped foreign gods.
Interestingly, in 43:13 Jeremiah says that the Lord will “break the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt, and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.” Heliopolis means House of the Sun, and was known mostly as housing the temple of the sun god Ra. This reflects Jeremiah 8:2, where the Lord said that He would throw the bones of the people who followed other gods towards the stars, moon, and SUN which they have worshiped. This is why the Heliopolis is mentioned in 43:13, because the remnant of Israel was still following after the same foolishness that brought God’s wrath on them in the first place, specifically the worship of sun deities. They didn’t stop when they saw what happened to Israel; they just went somewhere else and did the same thing.
This seems like a sad ending to Israel’s life. But I assure you its not. In fact, some of the most wonderful promises of how God would redeem His people come out of this tragic event, and through Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 31:31-34). We now know this redemption is fulfilled through Jesus.
One common trend that the church is embracing is the assertion of grace to the point of shunning God’s truth, and His standards. But if we have learned anything from the book of Jeremiah we can know this: God didn’t punish Israel because they outright rejected Him. He punished them because they synchronized God with the worship of other gods from other nations. In other words they brought the pure untainted worship and devotion of God that was commanded of them at the beginning of their relationship with God (Exodus 20:2-3) down to their own level. They defined it on their own terms and made their worship of God about what they wanted instead of submitting wholeheartedly to Him and what He wanted.
In the same way the church does this today with reckless abandon. The western world that we live in breeds the idea of self attainment and self assertion. We as the church, that is in this culture, have sought to blend in with this way of thinking instead of standing out as God’s people. We have sought to assert our own desires, and although, like Israel, the church has not outright rejected God, it has very aggressively synchronized the worship of other things, other gods, alongside its devotion to its one true God. Just as Israel carried out temple sacrifices and Levitical procedures, while simultaneously becoming cold towards God, so does the church today have the appearance of “good,” but in reality it has lost its true and singular devotion to the Lord.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s renew our minds (Romans 12:2), and let’s flush out all devotion that robs God of our total devotion! Let’s put Christ first and be willing to look to Him as our source, as our truth, and our comfort. Let’s give up ourselves, and the ways of humanism that belong to the dying world around us. Otherwise the church will resemble more of a desert than an oasis in the desert (Revelation 2:4-5).