JEREMIAH 10:1 – 12:17 and 1 PETER 1:1–25
The Word of the Lord is now going to be pronounced against the idols and the people who serve and worship them. These idols can take on many forms. They can be the customs and cultures of different lands, Spiritism and anything else that takes away focus and attention from the Lord. We can understand their folly when reading of these accounts as recorded but does not this speak of greater accountability for us? In fact, are we any better? These idols can do absolutely nothing to save us yet great sums of money; resources and time are given to these satanic influences. Jeremiah now contrasts these idols with the power and splendour of the Almighty God. In verse 10, it is stated that God is the true God who has the power to shake all the nations of the earth. In fact, this will be the case when He begins to move in indignation against sin and the people who practice it. The devils are defined as gods of the earth who had nothing to do with the creation of heaven and earth. Egypt of old was governed by many such idols. The Lord moved in judgement upon many of their gods during the judgements of the plagues. God allows evil to exist for a season. (He is not the creator of evil) There will be a time when God will dispose of them in some form of judgement. As we will see with Babylon, they can oftentimes serve as instruments of God’s judgment against His own people. This was on full display during the reign of King Hezekiah when Sennacherib was emboldened against Judah. They had racked up many victories and they had a sense of invincibility. Then in one night, God appointed His angel to slay 185,000 men.
Jeremiah continues to speak of the greatness of God. In verse 12, he sounds like the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians where he speaks of the Lord of all creation. The people spoke of Jesus as a good man, prophet, teacher etc but not seeing Him as the Son of God. Paul goes on to speak of the Lord as the One who created all things (Col 1:15-20). How foolish it is to serve idols and things that do not profit yet this is precisely what Israel was doing and what man continues to do. Jeremiah gives an added description in showing how the Lord is able to bring about rain from the vapours of the earth with its thunder and lightning. There are many other such descriptions of God’s creative handiwork seen throughout the scriptures. The prophet is emphatically trying to get the people to see the absolute foolishness of their ways. It is a horrible thought to consider what will happen when people stand before their creator in eternity after living a life serving idols. Jeremiah as well as a host of several other prophets keeps trying to make the same point.
It is amazing to see how people who serve idols soon begin to take on many of their characteristics. This really should not be too surprising. As a young boy I remember wanting to be like certain basketball and football players. I would practice some of their moves and try to imagine being like them. I did not have the talent to match my heroes but I spent much time thinking myself to be like them. The spiritual principal is pretty much the same. Is Jesus our hero? Do we seek to emulate and live up to the standard of Biblical heroes? It is a true saying that we become like those whom we worship. In verses, 17-18 the Lord gives advance notice in telling them to prepare for what they may want to take with them into captivity. The judgement was going to come and the Lord in His mercy is providing the opportunity to prepare them ahead of time. How far should we go in preparing for what will take place in our day? There are people who build underground bunkers, store up food etc in preparation for a dooms day scenario. I think it is important to prudently prepare but it can be brought to an extreme. We have to know that God is able to provide even in a time of famine provided we are walking in alignment to His purposes. Some of the preparation is spiritual such as seeking to be hid under the shadow of the Almighty. There are other exhortations such as “seeking meekness and righteousness” (Zeph 2:3). The Lord was giving Israel plenty of advance notice, the kind of notice that is being given today.
In verses 19-21 Jeremiah is again well acquainted with the grief and sorrow of his nation. It is an identification as to where they were. He saw what was coming and was experiencing its pain. It is a priestly function being employed here. It is painful; it is real and it is a heavy burden to shoulder. He was not receiving any help from the other shepherds (pastors) of his day. They were doing their own thing as we saw earlier in Jer 5:31. One of the characteristics that is often seen is the neglecting or minimizing of the Word of God. We must never allow this to take place in our churches; to substitute God’s Word with programs and events. The Word is the standard by which all things will be judged.
The Words of the Covenant that the Lord spoke to Israel are given as a warning that they are not to be broken. They will be rehearsed in the first few verses of this chapter. The Words of the Covenant and its warning were first given to Moses in Deu 27:26. It was because Israel did not heed the Covenant that they ended up enduring many hardships in the lead-up to this time period. It will be the continual breaking of the covenant that will now lead them to a Babylonian captivity. The warnings were given to Moses and they are again given here; cursed will be those who fail to hear and do the Words of the Covenant. It needs to be mentioned here as to how important it is to live the message that we teach and preach. It is one thing to speak a message but quite another to be an example of the message we speak. We will be tested upon it. Israel came out of Egypt, which was likened to an iron furnace (Deu 4:20). They had every advantage that one could ever need yet they turned from the ways of the Lord unto heathen practices and idols. There is the distinction between hearing the Words with our outer ear as opposed to our inner heart. Israel, like many of us only hears with the former.
It was God’s intent that Israel would be His people and that He would be their God. That he would bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey, where they could delight and rejoice daily in His presence. This is the desire He has for the Gentile church as well. The Lord loves fellowship and He provides you and me the privilege of being eternally with Him. There are prerequisites for this privilege and they simply are to uphold His laws, hear them and do them. That really is all there is to it. Trust and Obey for there is no other way. All Adam and Eve had to do from the very beginning was to resist the words of the enemy and obey God’s Word and there would not have been sin entering into the nature of man and the earth. Yes, it may sound simple but it is challenged. It is in the moment of being challenged where we are tested. Will we obey God or will we yield to the nature of the flesh and obey the voice of the enemy? Man now has the opportunity to triumph over sin by grace as we accept the sin sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross. It comes as we appropriate the finished work of the Cross through His blood. There is not only forgiveness of sin but there is the ability to die to the flesh and become more like the Son of God. The truth is there is a much better covenant that is now available to man through the work of Jesus. What is that New Covenant? The Law of God being written and established upon the fleshly table of our heart. This is why Jeremiah has such authority and revelation regarding the New Covenant (Jer 31:33). Israel walked after the imagination of their evil heart and it is for this reason that God is allowing the captivity of Babylon to come their way. The end result of Babylon (for those who will heed the message) will be a people who are established and know the heart of their God (Jer 24:6-7). It is a picture of those who have the inner ear to hear what God is saying and who allow their hearts to be circumcised as part of the New and better Covenant that Christ has brought forth.
In verses, 9-10 the Lord describes the breaking of the Covenant as a conspiracy from the forefathers who were given the law and commandments of God. There was a brief period of time when the priests worked alongside Joshua after the passing of Moses who had an ability to keep the laws of God before the people. Once these priests died the sons, who followed after began breaking the covenant that God had established through Moses in Deuteronomy. Once again, the instructions of the Lord were rather simple; uphold the Law and statutes and keep them by the side of all generations to come (Deu 17:14-20). This is one of the key reasons why the kings of Israel failed. A king must be able to rule by (Royal) priestly decrees (1 Pet 2:9).
The Lord speaks that when they cry out in time of trouble He will not hear or respond. God graciously responded to Israel throughout their history but no more. The Lord spoke through King David in Proverbs 1:28 in saying that he will not hear the cry of those who reject sound counsel. As mentioned earlier they will resort to seeking answers and help from the gods they served but to no avail. In verse 13, it is disclosed that Judah and Jerusalem have set up altars to Baal, which has its origins through Balaam. It would be good to go back and reflect what happened during the time of Balaam’s ministry (Num 22-25). He came on the scene right at the time God was looking to bring His people into their inheritance. This same seductive spirit will once again emerge in prophetic circles in the days to come. It is time to pray for the Phinehas’s to come forth, the priests that have the everlasting promise (Num 25:13). The prophet is once again instructed to not pray for the people seeing that their sentence has already been ordered. The example of King Saul comes to mind as one who once walked with God but through disobedience has now been rejected. His prayer will no longer be heard (1 Sam 28:6). The Lord will soon cast Judah out of Jerusalem; their temple worship and prayer will not appease Him.
The fruits of a faithful prophetic ministry will result in people moving against the Prophet. Jeremiah was rocking the boat and many of the other priests and prophets were not pleased. This is but another burden being placed upon Jeremiah. He sees the judgement that is coming, he knows the destruction and desolation that will consume the land and now has to deal with his own people rejecting the message. It rather sounds like a taste of what the Lord will later endure. Jeremiah appeals to the Lord on the grounds of doing what God has given Him to do. He is not doing this on his own but is being faithful to the message that has been given Him. Nehemiah did the same thing when Sanballet and his men attacked him (Neh 4:5-6). This is instructive to us if we are in a similar situation. Our concern is to seek to be faithful to that which God has given us to do.
There is a complaint being registered by Jeremiah that is oftentimes seen throughout scripture. It is a question we also ask. Why do the wicked prosper in their way? Jeremiah has been under such an intense burden for his people and coming to know the great judgements that are coming yet cannot help expressing frustration in seeing the evil people prospering. The church worldwide is under increasing pressure and it is becoming more difficult for Christians to practice their faith. The laws and regulations being made against Christians are unreasonable and at times criminal. There are many other religions who seem to come under a different standard, an easier one without harassment or modes of intimidation. Is this fair, is this just and acceptable? Of course not but it is the reality and for those who stand up for righteousness it will become increasingly so. The Psalmist in Psalm 73 expresses this same dilemma. He came to know the big picture after he came in to the sanctuary of God (Psa 73:17). It must be very painful for Jeremiah to have to endure these contradictions. He was a prophet who for the most part stood alone; he had very few contemporaries or acquaintances. He knew that God was just and that he would be vindicated but the delay of God’s vindication only added to his woe (vs 3-4) .
The next few verses are vital for us to understand because it speaks to groups of people in the church in the last days. In essence Jeremiah is saying that if your day to day battles overwhelm you how then will you be able to stand when the battles intensify to greater degrees? If footmen overwhelm you how will you contend with horses, how will you deal with the swelling of Jordan, which speaks of great calamities? The Lord gives us the opportunity to get victory in our day-to-day matters by a daily provision of His grace. Our battles can be overcome and as we learn to appropriate grace on a daily basis, we will be well prepared to do battle in the bigger challenges. David is such a good example of this truth. He was faithful in his day-to-day task of looking after his father’s sheep. He then was able to meet the challenge of Goliath, to contend with the champion of the Philistines in the day of that great battle. God provided manna on a daily basis to the children of Israel but they came to the place of loathing and despising it. The name manna can be interpreted as grace so we can conclude that Israel failed of appropriating the daily provision of grace with thanksgiving. Instead, they were unthankful and took God’s provision for granted. On the day of their great test of going into possess the land they failed. The day to day battles of the “footmen” overwhelmed them and they were not able to contend with the “giants” that were in God’s day of battle (Num 13:31).
The Lord lays a strong indictment upon the leadership in Israel or we can say the leaders in the church in verse 10. This is often the case when looking at a nation that once knew God who now has given itself to idolatry and the ways of the world. There is a strong parallel to the indictment that is given to false shepherds as seen in Ezekiel 34. It is easy to point the finger at modern governments and accuse them for causing many of the problems. The question needs to be asked as to what is the position of church in areas of doctrine. Has the church opened its door to secularism? If the church takes right positions and comes to the place of interceding for their respective cities and nations there would not be many of the problems that are seen today. Israel was in their condition due to the failure of the priests and kings in the upholding of God’s Law. The church was responsible then and it is responsible today.
The Lord gives the promise of Restoration in verses 14-17. Babylon will have its time in the sun. It will have a glory and splendour but it will come to an end. It ends in the form of Cyrus from the Medo-Persian Empire. Interestingly, many of the nations that had been enemies of Israel will have an opportunity to align with the God of Israel in future. It was a conditional promise but it is one where we have seen some measure of fulfilment. There are pockets of Christian believers in many of these modern day habitations today. As mentioned above the promise is conditional and there is a warning to those who do not take advantage of this opportunity. One such country will be Edom, which will be destroyed and made desolate at the time of the Lord’s second coming (Isa 63:1-4). It is a warning that we need to heed as well. The ability to Hear God, Trust God and Obey God is what our Christian life should consist of in these exciting days.
1 Pet 1
We now look at the fascinating life of the Apostle Peter. His life is primarily seen in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. His ministry was primarily geared to the Jewish world as opposed to Paul who was the Apostle to the Gentiles. There was a period of about 15 days where Peter and Paul were together at the Jerusalem council as seen in Acts 15.
Peter was a man who was firm and strong about everything he believed. This served as part of his problem in his early years. Though Peter was zealous he had many areas in his life where he needed to be converted and strengthened. He had a wonderful capacity to take a hit and get back up again. Many of his “hits” were self-inflicted due to his compulsive nature nonetheless he had great resiliency. This enabled him to strengthen others who would find themselves defeated and distraught. These letters represent a tremendous resource from his life’s experiences that help to establish and strengthen each of us.
Peter opens his epistle by introducing himself as an apostle to 5 different provinces that contained Jewish brethren. This area would be modern day Turkey. Since the letter did penetrate these provinces we can say that they had a Gentile audience as well. His letters have blessed the churches of the world for centuries. He then speaks of being the elect of God according to His foreknowledge. This is a meaty verse (vs 2) which the Apostle Paul addresses at length when writing to the Romans. To be elect means to be chosen; we are chosen according to the foreknowledge God has regarding the choices and decisions we will make in life. He looks and sees the heart(s) that will respond to Him. This does not mean that we can live any way we want. Peter later speaks about making our calling and election sure (2 Pet 2:10).
There is also a process of sanctification that takes place in the life of a believer. This is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit that takes place when we learn to live a life of continual obedience to the Truth. Peter speaks of being kept by the power of God unto salvation (vs 5). This means that as a young believer we have a heavenly Father who shelters and covers us from harm’s way like a natural father to his child. As a child begins to grow he or she then becomes more responsible for their actions. Peter knows this truth by much experience seeing that he failed on different occasions only to allow God to lift him up once again. As we progress through these letters let’s not forget the many ups and downs of Peter’s life. I believe there is a little bit of Peter in each of us. In the end Peter was an overcomer and his letter helps to pave the way for future overcomers.
Peter goes on to speak concerning the trial of our faith. He uses the term “manifold” which denotes a variety of colours or degree of trials. Peter has been tested at many levels and he certainly can speak to this truth. He will later speak of a “manifold” degree of grace which perfectly matches any degree of trial (1 Pet 4:10). We see in Peter’s life the true definition of grace at work. It is important to understand that faith accomplishes God’s will and agenda, not man’s. Faith originates with God and it is fulfilled as the people of God learn to appropriate grace in the midst of their walk with God. It is not an easy fulfilment and it will be tested and challenged. It is the trials of our faith that purifies us and prepares us to be the vessels God has called us to be. This process, though painful and costly is in reality a great treasure that goes beyond the cost of gold (vs 7). This faith is not developed by natural sight but by learning to obey to the Lord’s promptings. Peter had the ability to step out into the unknown in his early years as a follower of Christ. He needed the inner work of faith to produce a vessel that was tempered and wholly sanctified unto His purposes.
Peter now touches on a subject of great importance which is the mind (vs 13). Our mind is a battleground and there must be the ability to exercise discipline in this area. Our walk with the Lord is an interesting one. On one hand the Bible speaks of the Lord completing that good work which he has begun in us (Phil 1:6). Still, there is our part in this equation. This is because God gave us an ability to choose. The mind is one example where we make choices that help to determine whether God will fulfil His work in us or not. If I allow my thought life to deteriorate by thinking upon areas of sin it will result in my doing and practicing those very things. It is my choice! How can God complete His work in me if I continually make choices that lend itself to sin? There is the need in all believers to gird up the loins of the mind, to bring discipline to our thought life. Our mind tends to wander and be all over the place. It is the study and meditation upon the Word of God that helps to bring our thought life into line with His thoughts. This then transforms and strengthens the spirit man.
Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Peter now addresses the subject of holiness in verses 14-16. God is a holy God and we are called to holiness. This verse is also brought forth in Lev 11:44. When God created Adam and Eve he did not create them holy but in innocence. There are two things about holiness that must be understood. First, there must be a choosing to be holy as exhorted in these verses here. Second, holiness must be tested. Adam was created in innocence but he was not created holy. God gave the first law with consequence in Gen 2:16-17 where he put a line of demarcation around the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The instruction was given to not eat of the tree; if Adam were to do so he would die. The serpent then was allowed to come before man to test and see if Adam would choose to obey God’s Law. We know what happened. Adam made the choice to sin when he was tested by the serpent. God is holy, it is who He is. Man now has the opportunity to become holy, to become like the Lord due to what Jesus accomplished at the Cross. This will be a common thread throughout Peter’s epistles. His life demonstrates perhaps more than any other how a believer can come into that position of holiness. Peter failed miserably at times in his early years but he triumphed mightily at the end. His life helps to show how you and I can come into that place of being holy.
Peter speaks as to how the Lord was ordained from the beginning to die as the lamb of God for each and every one of us and that it is only through Him that we can come to know salvation (vs 20-21). We see that before the crown and great glory there is the cross, there is the price of suffering but it is so worth it. The key is learning to obey truth through the Spirit because it is through this process where we become purified in our faith. This also helps to cultivate a true love for one another (vs 22). Peter goes on to put life in true perspective. This life passes quickly and it is only the Word of the Lord that abides forever. Peter hit hard on people who sought to live for this life; accumulating riches and items that have no eternal value. There is considerable truth and meat in his opening chapter and it sets the table for a well-rounded exhortation to the church of his day and ours as to what really matters.