JEREMIAH 25:1 – 27:22 and 2 PETER 1:1–21
The pronouncement of judgement upon Israel to Babylon is reinforced in this chapter. A brief history of how Israel related to God is given in verses 4-7. It was a consistent history of God continually sending prophets to warn them of their sin and error. They chose to turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of the Lord unless they were already under judgement. In short, they refused to turn from their evil ways. Secondly, they went full speed ahead in the practice of idolatry, which was a violation of the first of God’s Commandments. Third, God became provoked due to their actions, which have brought them to the brink of their Babylonian judgement. They refused the message of repentance that God was affording and it came to the point of time where it became too late.
One of the more profound series of prophetic utterances is given in verses 8-11. The Lord gives the number of years that Israel will be subjected to Babylon. It is also mentioned in a few other places as well (Jer 29:10). He calls King Nebuchadnezzar his servant who accomplishes what is in the heart of God. Remember, how the Lord called Cyrus as his servant when looking through Isaiah? In that case it was 150 years before he was even born. What prophetic insights both Jeremiah and Isaiah had.
In verses 12-14 God pronounces judgement upon Babylon after their 70 years of being used to purge Israel of idolatry. The Babylonian oversight of Israel will be cruel but they will be successful in helping to purge the sin of idolatry from the people. The cleansing effect has lasted to this very day. In light of the big picture, we can rejoice in how God showed Himself as the merciful and gracious God. He is a God of goodness who only seeks to do that which is best and right. The key for the people and for us today is to hear His voice and respond to Him. If there is no evidence of repentance, we will not come to know of His forgiveness.
There are several mentions of “cups” in scripture. The most famous one is the cup that Jesus had to partake of at Gethsemane. It represented the sin of mankind which when taken resulted in the fullness of God’s wrath being released upon His Son who became the Passover Lamb. The cup referenced here speaks of the cup of judgement that will become ripe to the nations that God will give it to (vs 15-17). It is a cup filled with the wrath of God that will be poured out at an appointed time to many of the nations that have afflicted Israel.
The nations who will be judged are mentioned in verses 18-33. The Lord will use Nebuchadnezzar as his instrument of judgement upon these nations. Nebuchadnezzar will not seek the Lord at this particular time but will later repent after his being filled with pride (Dan 4).The first nation is Israel seeing that judgment must first begin in the house of the Lord (1 Pet 4:17). The next nation is Egypt which was the destination of many Jews in trying to avoid Babylon. The punishment upon Egypt is later recorded in Jer 46:25-26. The nations of Edom, Moab and Ammon are mentioned as nations that will not escape His wrath. There are other nations mentioned such as the King of Tyrus who will be looked at in greater detail in Ezekiel’s prophesies. He is likened to Satan due to his expertise in commerce and networking. There are also Arabian tribes that are mentioned as part of the judgements to come.
The Lord returns to His own city and pronounces severe judgements as a result of their iniquities. The Lord is going to send a sword to slay them which could have been avoided if they would have allowed the sword of the Lord to first do an internal work within them. The physical circumcision is figurative of the depth of work God was looking to do. They refused this sword and now must bear the consequence of disobedience by coming to know the sword of the Lord in judgement.
The severity of God’s wrath that will be poured out is now likened to that which will be seen in the last days (vs 30). The question we need to ask ourselves is which side will we be on? Will we be marked for judgement with the world because of failure to separate from its ways or will we give heed and be among those who are numbered with the Lord when He returns to establish his kingdom?
There is another warning given to the Pastors and Shepherds of Israel who have not taken care of their flocks. As we see at the end of this chapter, the Lord is not all pleased. How do the shepherds and pastors of our day measure up?
We now begin a section where we will see many of the great battles that Jeremiah had as a prophet. This will be true for any man or woman of God who chooses to take a stand for that which is right. A question any minister will have to answer is whether he is more interested in pleasing people or God. For a season, it may not be too difficult to have affinity with both groups. Balaam the prophet went to great lengths to have it both ways. His prophetic ministry did tremendous damage because it came at the time of a significant move of God. This is what Jeremiah is now facing seeing that his message is proving to be offensive to the majority of people. This is when a man’s ministry becomes defined; it is what he does when a choice has to be made one way or the other without the benefit and protection of a middle ground.
Jeremiah repeats many of the warnings that were previously shared. Josiah had just died and his son is now reigning so there were still elements of revival. He repeats a very important history lesson from the events that took place at Shiloh (1 Sam 4). This is not the first time this example is presented. The parallels are very clear and there was no better way in trying to get the message to hit home with the people. There was a corrupted priesthood which abused their office whereby making allowances for all kinds of abominations. God was about to begin a fresh move and He was not going to allow a reprobate priesthood to share in the glory of defeating the Philistines in battle as well as accompanying His presence to Zion. A prophetic word was given that there would be a priest who would faithfully represent His presence as he sought out a resting place at Zion ( 1 Sam 2:35). What is about to take place with Israel here is a picture of what will take with the Gentile church in the last days. I guess we can say that the Gentile Church should remember what God did to Israel at Babylon. Israel was told to remember Shiloh while we are called to remember these events prior to Babylon. Once again, the blueprint for the church of our day is rather clear.
In verses, 8-11 there is a scene that will take place at the time of Jesus. His ministry and words proved offensive; so much so that his life was being threatened by the so-called church leaders. As in the days of Jesus so it was with Jeremiah where secular leaders intervened to stop the priests and church leaders from doing further damage. Jeremiah faithfully responded to all who were gathered which included both secular and church leaders (vs 12-15).
The princes gave an impressive response to Jeremiah’s words. They spoke with conviction and they spoke on the basis of precedent taking note of the words of Micah who prophesied in the days of King Hezekiah. They go on to say that Jeremiah had shared nothing that would make him worthy of death. It is encouraging to note that Jeremiah was not alone in his prophetic utterances. There was a man named Urijah who spoke against the city in much the same manner that Jeremiah had been doing. His message infuriated King Jehoiakim who then sought after his life. This prophet fled to Egypt only to be captured by the king’s men and brought back to Jehoiakim who then slew him. Jeremiah continued to find favor with the Lord seeing that his earthy mission was not yet fulfilled. There was still much God was going to do and speak through His mighty prophet.
One of the high prices that a prophet pays is that they become an example of the message they are called to give. This is what happens here with Jeremiah. He had to put bonds of yokes upon his neck and proclaim that he who spoke for God (Jeremiah) would first be a partaker of God’s judgement with other nations to follow. The message of which a true prophet is called to speak must first be realized in the life of the prophet. All human taint and element has to first be removed before God’s clear Word can come forth. The message he is speaking is no ordinary message hence the great preparation that goes into the moulding and shaping of a prophet like Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is called to remind his listeners that it is God who is sovereign and over all the earth. All power is to come under the authority of God (Rom 13:1). In verse 6 it is the Lord who is determining that Nebuchadnezzar is to become king of the world and for an appointed period of time. At this juncture King Nebuchadnezzar is a wicked man but will soon come to a place of repentance after God deals with his haughty pride, as seen in Daniel 4. He then makes a declaration of who God is in Dan 5:18-21, which is essentially what Jeremiah, is prophesying here. It is so important that we have true prophetic insight in the lead-up to the last days. There were and are currently many different streams of prophets in the church. God is in charge and it is vitally important we know His Word and what He is about to do. If the people had ears to hear they would know exactly what was coming their way but they turned a deaf ear to the Word of the Lord. Are we hearing truly hearing what God is saying today?
In verses 8-9, the warning is given to other nations about submitting to Babylon in much the same way that Israel is being called to do. There were many prophets and leaders who would speak a contrary word to the likes of Jeremiah and Zephaniah; speaking out of their own hearts and beliefs that God would spare them as he did under King Hezekiah. The supernatural intervention of God against the Assyrians would not happen regarding the Babylonians. God had already determined the judgement but He was providing the means of relief if they would only hearken to His Words. Sad to say, most of them refused to hear what God had already determined. The Word of the Lord brought a strong indictment against those who propagated the lie of deliverance from Babylon in verse 10. It is very sobering to think and consider the consequences of misspeaking for God. Our words and messages as prophets and leaders influence multitudes and we had better be clear in that which we speak. May we always seek to be clothed with the garment of “humbleness of mind” and humility. The responsibility of ministry whether we be a prophet or priest is a high one and not to be taken lightly.
In verse 11 the Word of the Lord is given to those who choose to come under the king of Babylon. They will be given leniency as opposed to those who choose to flee and seek their own sanctuary from the Babylonian oppression. This truth is emphasized on different occasions such as Jer 24 and Jer 42 and 43. The punishments of God that were determined upon Israel were in reality His mercy. It all has to be seen in accordance to the big picture. This is one of the problems one often finds in the kingdom of God. How does one define mercy? How does one define the true meaning of grace? Is it really God’s mercy to get away with things? This lesson was learned in my life as a young boy in discovering that I never could get away with anything. I always got caught! To me this was not fair. Now that I have the advantage of years, I can honestly see my childhood disclosures as the mercy of God. It did not seem like it at the time but it was and I thank the Lord continually for allowing me to learn this valuable lesson. The subject of grace is another one of those words that the church is abusing. It is abused because it is not properly defined. It is not properly defined because of many different doctrines that make allowance for it.
The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah to speak regarding the king of Judah that he would repent and turn but once again it all fell on deaf ears. The people were hoping against hope that they would be spared in the end (vs 14-16). The problem was that there hope was not based on reality; it was not anchored in that which God was saying. Their hope was kept alive by prophets who were not speaking to them the Word of the Lord. The hope that God was providing was that there would be a restoration after a captive period of 70 years. This was the true message and the hope the Lord was seeking to get His people to lay hold of. Take a moment and try to place yourself in this narrative. How would you respond if this were you? Which of the two sets of prophets would you be listening to? It is a serious question and it requires serious thought.
2 Pet 1
The 2nd letter is pretty much written to the same people as the first but it would be with a larger audience in mind. In the first letter, Peter warned of persecution that would come to the church but in this letter, his concern is for false teaching that will prove to be even more dangerous. Peter also knows that his time is at hand so there is a greater sense of urgency in his letter. Like the first epistle, this one was written from Rome. Notice in Peter’s introduction that he first calls himself a servant and then an apostle. This is quite the contrast of what we saw in Peter in his earlier years. His greeting is very similar to that which we saw with Paul in his letters. There is always emphasis on peace and grace, which comes through the knowledge of God. This knowledge is not natural but that which comes from God. It represents one of the seven spirits of God as seen in Isa 11:2-3. Peter picks up on the thought of knowledge as something that needs to be added to the foundation of faith as seen in verse 5. Peter elaborates on knowledge in verse 3 by stating that we learn to grow in godliness and divine power through experiential knowledge. This comes as a result of having special encounters with God as we walk in our Christian journey. Peter then goes on to speak of the ability to be partakers of the divine nature while escaping from the corrupting influences of the world. Remember, it was Peter who referenced an Old Testament verse from Leviticus. “Be ye holy as I am holy” (Lev 11:44, 1 Pet 1:15-16). I am going to reference the summary taken from John 21 that goes into some detail of verses 5-7. It is italicized below.
The Lord then has a discussion with Peter after they had dined together. What a meal that must have been! The Lord asks Peter the same question three different times. This account is covered in verse 15-17. There are different meanings and interpretations that can be taken from this account but I would like to focus on a truth from this conversation that has so blessed me. The Lord asks Peter the first time if he loves the Lord. (vs 15) The Lord uses the word “agape” which is the measure of love that the Father demonstrated when he gave Jesus to die for our sins. (John 3:16) It also represents the measure of love that Jesus expressed when he chose to lay down His life for His friends. (John 15:13) Peter, do you have this measure of love for me? Of course, Peter loved the Lord but he certainly did not have the capacity of agape love. Remember, he just denied the Lord 3 times a few days earlier. He responds by saying that he phileo the Lord. This was a relational love and it was the measure of love that Peter could express at that particular time. Try and think of it this way! It can be likened to the Lord standing on top of a mountain and asking Peter if he had agape love for Him. Peter, at the bottom of the mountain can only respond, Lord, I phileo you. It seems like an impossible target or goal. This scenario repeats itself in verse 16. It appears to again repeat itself in verse 17 but with one big difference. The word for love that the Lord uses here is not agape but it is phileo. It can be likened to the Lord coming down from the mountain and meeting Peter at the level where he was at. What a beautiful picture this presents to us. This is true leadership. Jesus, as the Lord and leader of Peter’s life established a very high goal and target, in fact an impossible target. After establishing the goal the Lord comes down and meets Peter at his level. He then goes on to say that up till now Peter you have pretty much done your own thing. I know you love me Peter but you still have sought your own way. I would think his recent denials of the Lord would be coming to his mind about now. Here is the key to the early church; it is a unique introduction to the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. This verse must be noted:
Joh 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
Who is that other? It is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the godhead who will be able to lead Peter and the disciples into places and experiences that they could not achieve on their own. Up until now the disciples and men and women of old had the Spirit of God come upon them at various times. The Lord was very clear in making this distinction in one of his recent discourses with His disciples:
John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Jesus made clear that there would be a time when the Spirit of God would have a more intimate and personal role in the life of a believer. This would occur at the time of Pentecost. Let’s go back and try to ascertain Peter’s thoughts in his encounter with the Lord. The Lord is presenting before him a seemingly impossible goal and target; to have a capacity for agape love. It is presented to Peter immediately after his failure in denying the Lord on three occasions. The Lord then comes alongside and encourages him that another will come and gird him and strengthen him to go to places and realms that he could not achieve on his own. How would that translate for us?
There would be many today that would say that the message of the cross is too difficult or to become just like the Lord is an impossibility. There are many who feel that true holiness in the life of a believer is not achievable. True enough, it is impossible in our own strength and in our way of living. It would be an impossible target for any of us. Yet, the Lord holds this possibility and potential before the church. We respond by saying, Lord, you know I would like to be able to live the crucified life, to become like you but I am a sinner and do not have the capacity to be god-like. The Lord again presents to us this potential and all we can do is sigh, knowing full well our propensity to sin and falling short in the expectations of God. Now imagine the Lord coming alongside encouraging and loving us and introducing us to the person of the Holy Spirit. This is why being baptized in the Holy Spirit is an essential. It is His work to teach us, to reprove us and help establish us by planting fruits of the kingdom in seed form within us. If we choose to flow, allowing Him to lead these seeds then begin to take root and manifest within our lives. As these seeds manifest in our life the old man has to yield, give way and eventually die so that it is no longer I but the fruits of Christ that dwells within. What is required on our part is a “choosing” to yield so that the needed work can be done. It requires a choosing in allowing the Holy Spirit to overturn the strongholds, the money-changing tables in our temples. (Mark 11:15-17) Let’s now fast forward about 33 years. Peter is nearing the end of his life and he is exhorting the church with final words of instruction. Consider the following verses:
2Pe 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
2Pe 1:6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
2Pe 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Peter instructs us to add 7 steps or “attributes of grace” to the foundation of faith in our life. We know that faith has to be the foundation since without it we can do nothing. (Heb 11:6) The final step that is mentioned is “charity”. The translation for charity in the Greek is “agape” love. We can say that Peter can now instruct us from a position of agape love. This was the goal and target the Lord presented to him about 33 years earlier. Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to work in his life from Pentecost onwards, leading him to this position of apostolic love. What was impossible 33 years earlier has been realized by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus was emphatic on having to go to His Father because in doing so the Holy Spirit could come in HIs fullness. Jesus as the Son of God had to first live as a man and demonstrate how to live as the Son of man making it possible for you and I to then do the same. This is impossible to achieve in the flesh. It requires an act of faith to first accept Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior; and continued faith in allowing the person of the Holy Spirit to come within us and begin the process of cultivating change so that we die and become more like Him. The conversational exchange between Peter and the Lord should serve as a great encouragement for each of us. What is impossible in the natural is possible with God. May we respond to the Lord as did Peter when Jesus brought the invitation to him in these two words. FOLLOW ME! (John 21:19)
If these qualities are worked within the believer, there will not be barrenness nor unfruitfulness in the knowledge of God. There is that word “knowledge” again. He goes on to emphasize that we make our calling and election sure. God has elected or chosen us for eternal life but it is up to us to make it sure. We must never take “choice” out of the equation. Just because God has called us to a particular work or calling there is no guarantee it will be achieved. We can choose to resist and walk away from that calling. If we appropriate the graces mentioned in verses 5-7 by faith we shall not fall short.
Peter knew that his death was imminent as seen in verses 12-15. Peter continues to remind them to be established in the truth and not waver. He speaks of his experience on the Mt. of Transfiguration with James and John when they had the privilege of witnessing that wonderful event involving Moses and Elijah (Math 17:1-8). The experience of witnessing the events at the Mt. of Transfiguration would be exhilarating and would be enough to testify of God’s greatness. Peter though mentioned the scriptures as being an even greater authority; a more sure Word of Prophesy. This is instructive for our day because many put a higher premium on signs and wonders than they do on God’s Word. Signs and wonders are vitally important but they are never meant to serve as a substitute for God’s Word. Peter is very clear on this point and so should we.