JEREMIAH 22:1 – 24:10 and 1 PETER 5:1–14
The prophetic declaration of Jeremiah is now being directed towards King Jehoiakim who was the son of the godly King Josiah. He was a vile man and one who ruled wickedly. Still, the Word of the Lord to the king was for the purpose of repenting and being like a father to the nation as they were to prepare for judgement. The compassions of the Lord are once again on full display as He gives an opportunity to a wicked king to turn from his evil way. How did the king respond to this kind gesture? After being given several wonderful promises (vs 4) the king like many before him, refused to give heed to God’s kind gesture and sobering warnings. The resulting judgements will then consist of the Babylonians laying waste to the beautiful fields that are likened to Gilead. The beautiful woods of cedar will be cut down and destroyed. The destruction will be so great that other nations will see and take note of all that has become of Jerusalem and Israel. Israel, in spite of all the warnings that were given could not let go of their idols. The worst part is that many of the priests helped to contribute to this disobedience. Who wants to hear the kind of message that Jeremiah was faithfully declaring in the midst of a revival?
In verses, 10-12 there is a mention of a king named Shallum. He was the one placed into the throne upon the death of King Josiah (2Chr 36:1-4). The king of Egypt took Shallum to Egypt and changed his name to Jehoahaz. He was wicked and there was no mourning to be given towards him. He followed in the steps of Manasseh and Amon. The king then made Eliakim or Jehoiakim king in his stead. Jehoiakim was the brother of Jehoahaz. His reign is recorded in verses 13-14 and like the others, it was a wicked one. He built himself a palace and defrauded the workers of their just wages. In verses 15-16, some of the works of the godly King Josiah are recorded. He not only upholds the laws and standards of God but he took care of the poor and had a kind eye towards those in need. His life was one that was most pleasing to God.
The judgement upon King Jehoiakim is revealed in verses 17-19. He was not only guilty of defrauding workers of fair wages but he also was a liar and a drunkard. There will be no man who will lament or care about his death. What a tragedy it is to have this kind of testimony. His name is ever recorded as one that was wicked and lost. He lived in a beautiful palace but died and was buried outside the gates of the city. It is a sad picture of what it will be like in having to live in eternity in outer darkness and torment.
We need to give close heed to the prophetic words given to those who were Lebanon and Bashan. Though they were separate from Israel, they were connected with them commercially and had good relations with them. They prospered under this arrangement but they would not listen to the Word of the Lord when it was given. There were pastors and church leaders who did not pay heed primarily due to being caught up in their prosperity. These were good people for the most part but were sadly overtaken with the judgements that came upon Israel. In the last days, there will be the call to come out of Babylon (Rev 18:4). This will be a call to those who are part of churches or systems who do not separate from the spirit of antichrist. The Bible emphatically warns for the purpose of being spared from becoming partakers of their sins.
The judgements upon King Jehoiachin are referenced in verses 24-30. He was a young man of 18 years old who reigned for a period of about 3 months. He would be the 2nd last king of Judah. He was despised of the Lord and was among those ordained to be brought into Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 24:8-9). He did have an opportunity to be remembered by God in what would have been the 37th year of his captivity. King Evil Merodach of Egypt looked kindly to Jehoiachin and lifted him up. They came to know each other when they were in prison together. He ruled during the time that God smote Nebuchadnezzar into a beast. Evil Merodach ruled wickedly during this period and was placed in prison after Nebuchadnezzar came back to the throne. He (Evil Merodach) later succeeded Nebuchadnezzar as king and it was at this time when Jehoiachin was lifted up. It was hoped that these two men learned valuable lessons while in prison. God is ever merciful and gracious even in the midst of His severest of judgements.
This chapter begins with an indictment upon the pastors and shepherds of God’s people. Ezekiel has a very similar account on this same subject (Eze 34). What was the reason for this indictment? How did they go about scattering the sheep and what lessons can we draw from this warning? These pastors were self-serving at the expense of the congregation as a whole. It is reminiscent of what the sons of Eli did in their priestly office. They took the best offerings for themselves, they were immoral and they presumed upon God out of their own convenience. You would think Israel would have learned from their history. They lost the presence of the Lord, which was about to happen to Israel as they were going into Babylon. The question we need to ask is whether we have learned from Israel’s examples; we are certainly without excuse. The pastors that the Lord is looking for are those who have a bountiful eye in looking after others. It was Ezra, Nehemiah and other restorers who helped in establishing pastoral and godly leadership after their time in captivity. The people of the Restoration era were very well fed spiritually and naturally.
The prophet now looks beyond the church age and into the Millennium to give a picture of what Christ’s reign will be like. It is here where one of the revelations of the Lord’s name is given which speaks of His righteousness. (Jehovah Tsidkenu) This is an important truth because it denotes the quality of believer that will reign with Jesus during his 1000-year reign upon earth. It will be those who know Him as the Lord of righteousness; not just an imputed but also an imparted, worked out righteousness. It is a righteousness that comes by walking in the light and truth as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).
The balance of the chapter is a huge indictment against the priests and prophets of Israel. Remember what the Lord said about both the priests and prophets earlier? The prophets speak falsely, the priests bear rule by their own means, and the people love to have it that way (Jer 5:31. Jeremiah becomes sick as he considers the sin of both the prophets and priests. They are drunk and under the spirit of adultery. Let us keep in mind that these priests had the responsibility of being the messengers of God’s holiness. The people are put off when those who are supposedly representing a holy God are corrupt and self-serving. Their example does nothing in leading people into the seeking of God; it is quite the opposite. There will be a strong contrast of priesthood that will be seen after the Babylonian captivity by Ezra, Joshua and other restoration priests. They will not put up or tolerate anything that would offend the living God. When one sees the big picture, it becomes easier to understand why Israel had to go into captivity. You see this trend throughout scripture. The journey of the Ark from Shiloh to Zion helps to give a vivid picture of what will transpire in the last days. We do not want to be like these prophets and priests who presume upon God and speak messages that ensnare the people. How disconcerting this had to be for Jeremiah. He is also beginning to become more acquainted with the heart of God as well. We will see this in more detail in the next chapter. In verses 12-15 some of the judgements upon the priests and prophets are given. It is sobering to see the parallels between Jeremiah’s day and ours. It is a clear-cut message for all of us. How is it possible that many churches and denominations now make allowance for the sin of Sodom? The Word of the Lord warns against listening and giving heed to these prophets who speak out of their own hearts. They do not spend time in God’s presence where they have the chance to get know more of his heart. They speak messages that help to maintain an audience, messages that are easier to hear and digest. The problem is that it is not the Word of the Lord.
The Lord will not tolerate these kinds of priests and prophets for long. What they do accomplish however is determine what is really in the hearts of the people. This is what the spirit of antichrist is accomplishing today. It has entered the church and it is infecting it with a message that is taking people in the wrong direction. This spirit of antichrist is preparing the way for the man of sin to have a ready-made people who will be ripe for his ministry. That last sentence almost resembles what it says about John the Baptist. He prepared the way of the Lord to make ready a people for their God (Luk 1:17). The dividing lines are becoming more distinct. No, I am not speaking of the world contrasted with the church but rather the two groups that are dividing within the church itself. God allowed a season for these prophets and priests to flourish and what they did was to primarily divide Israel into two groups. There were those who took to heart the message of Babylon as prophesied through Jeremiah and then there was the majority who deferred to an easier message. The judgements against false priests and prophets are a heavy one when considering the multitudes of lives that were affected through their ministry.
In verses 23-40, many of the people and leaders derided and mocked Jeremiah taunting him with verbal assaults to give them the Word of the Lord. They would chide him by asking what the burden of the Lord is today. The Lord refused to speak anymore to them so He instructed Jeremiah to just tell them that the Lord will forsake Jerusalem and its people. There does come a time when God will no longer to speak to people. This is what happened to Saul after he lost the anointing. There may be times when God does speak but it is in response to what is in the hearts of the people. (This is potentially more dangerous) The bottom line with Israel, which is the bottom line with many today, is that they hated knowledge and truth (Rom 1:28, 2 Thes 2:9-10). They did not choose the Fear of the Lord nor desire to walk after their ways. Their idols and way of life were deemed more important and satisfying. Israel is now about to eat and partake of the fruits of their labours.
This chapter contrasts 2 different baskets of figs. This distinction clearly applied to two different groups in the lead-up to captivity and it certainly speaks of two different groups that exist today. The time period is clearly given in verse 1, which is during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar after he took King Jehoiakim into Babylon. This means it would have been during the 2nd carrying away which would have been around the time of Ezekiel (Eze 1:1-2). Here there are two groups; one who works hard and are industrious which are likened to the good figs. These people excelled in Babylon and would be numbered amongst those who responded to the prophesying of Jeremiah. The other group tended more towards being lazy and idle. This is something God does not condone as seen in many in of the parables that Jesus taught.
In verses 4-7, the distinction is made between these two groups as they are categorized by either good or bad figs. The Lord had purposed Babylon to be for the good of His people if they were to hearken to his Word. Are you familiar with Jer 29:11? If so, do you know the preceding verse, which helps to give it overall context?
Jer 29:10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
The promise given to this group of people (the good figs) was that the Lord Himself would plant and establish them. How important this will be in the last days when the shakings begin to take place. This can be associated with the foundation that will be strong and hold in times of trouble. This is a work that is founded upon the Rock (Luk 6:46-49). In addition, they will have a heart that knows the heart of God. This is what God is after; a people who delights in Him and knows His heart. This was the revelation that Moses came into when he was stationed by the cleft of the rock at Mt. Sinai (Exo 33:19-20). This is a person cleansed from idols and presumption. The people, who refuse to acknowledge the work of Babylon will be cursed, likened to the evil figs (vs 8-10).
1 Pet 5
The beginning to this chapter is a charge to leaders, which would include pastors, elders, and other church leaders. Peter assumed a leadership role as the early church commenced. His many years of walking with the Lord have prepared him well to give key instruction and guidance to those in leadership roles and to those who will one day be leaders. Interestingly, Peter mentions about being both a partaker of the sufferings and glory of Christ. Peter has witnessed it all and he came to experience it. He is a clear authority in being able to speak on leadership. In verse 2, Peter is speaking on the need to properly feed the flock that is given to one’s charge. He is charging leaders in much the same way Jesus charged him about 33 years earlier. There are some exceptional truths that Peter will convey in this and subsequent chapters from his second epistle. The more we look at the life of Peter the greater appreciation we have for this man and for the work of transformation that was provided him by God’s grace. A leader or a Pastor is to take the oversight of the flock and to lead. He is to serve the people but he must also lead them. The role of a minister should always be seen as a great privilege and not just something that has to be done. One should not be compelled to have to take up the cross but it should be done willingly and with joy. The motive of a minister must not be for gain or self-promotion. The primary role of a godly leader is to always point the way to Jesus. There is no room for celebrity worship. A godly leader is not to lord over a congregation and drive them to a breakdown. A shepherd goes before the flock and then leads the flock into pasture. There is a very big difference between driving sheep and leading.
There needs to be an honouring of authority within the church. The younger ones should learn to serve and submit to those who are older and more seasoned. I have seen on many occasions where older people become intimidated by younger ones because of their preaching and or song leading ability. There is a danger of placing an overemphasis on these vital components of church ministry at the expense of experience. The young people need to draw from the time-tested elements of life that older men and women bring to the church. There should be a proper bridge and relationship between the generations for the maximizing of the church’s thrust. Peter goes on to explain the importance of humility and how it counters pride. A person who walks in true humility is able to disarm the wiles of the enemy. A humble person leaves no handles for the enemy to attach unto (vs 5). Peter learned this lesson early on his Christian walk, His arrogance was so high that he actually challenged the words of the Lord (Luke 22:31-34). If we can learn to walk in humility it makes us candidates to receive His grace. When we are proud, we tend to be reliant upon self. The more this develops within our life the less dependent we become upon God. The garment of humility (Col 3:12) allows us to be ever needy in the area of grace. It is an awareness that we can do nothing in of ourselves. There is a price to pay for humility but be assured that the Lord will take notice and cause one to arise at an appointed time in future for His purpose (vs 6).
One of the most difficult things for a believer to do is to cast all care and concern upon the Lord. I think we would be amazed to find out how much unnecessary baggage we carry around. The Lord made the following statement, which we need to appropriate.
Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The Lord truly cares for each and every one of us. He longs to take upon Himself many of the burdens we refuse to let go of. He can be trusted! We have to learn to be able to let go.
The exhortation to be vigilant and watchful is given in verses 8-9. The enemy is hard at work utilizing every tactic possible to subvert the work and plan of God. Are we aware and discerning of his devices? Is it possible that we may be about church related ministries and programs that deflect from what God is speaking to the churches? The sons of Issachar, the 300 men of Gideon and the shepherds who tended their flocks by night in the fields at the time of the Lord’s birth demonstrate the heightened vigilance required today. These groups distinguished themselves from all of the others and they represent the manner of people that Peter is calling out here. The enemy will spend his time on those who represent the greatest threat to his kingdom. Is it any wonder there are so many churches that seem to thrive in the midst of their compromise? They do not pose a problem for Satan; in fact, they end up being more of a tool in suppressing the Truth that will truly liberate.
God is able to make all grace available for any situation. Peter demonstrates this truth so well. He had a high calling upon his life and yet had times of failure in his earlier years. He had the ability to respond and carry on, availing of God’s grace to become more established and strengthened in the things of God. One of the modern day adages or expressions that we can take from Peter’s life is to never give up! How do you think Peter felt when the Lord glanced his way after his third denial?
Luk 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
Luk 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Luk 22:62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Let the above moment sink in. There is no way one could recover from such a failure right? The Lord was about to go to the cross and one of the primary disciples has failed Him. Fast forward another 33 years or so and look at the man who is now exhorting us through his epistle. This is what God can do. There is such hope and encouragement we can all glean from the Lord’s working in the life of Peter.
Peter concludes this first epistle by declaring that God is sovereign and has all things under control. This truth should reassure all of us as we confront the last days. It is also interesting that Peter would refer to “true grace” in verse 12. This makes the point that there must be a false grace, which of course is very true. This first epistle of Peter covers considerable ground but it can be seen as a foundation to his second letter which will show how we can become more like the Lord. Many of us can identify with Peter due to some of his shortcomings, which are openly conveyed throughout scripture. May our association with this beloved apostle be known more for the transformation that took place in his life; that his example would become our example as well as we become partakers of the true grace.