JEREMIAH 31:1 – 33:26 and 2 PETER 3:1–18
The point has been made on numerous occasions as to how the Lord has such a heart for Restoration. We see great evidence of it here as He now speaks concerning Ephraim. This was the portion of Israel (10 tribes) who have already been judged and was ravaged by the Assyrians. This event happened many years prior but still the Lord remembers His people. Jeremiah goes on to speak of the everlasting love that He has for Israel. The heart of God is moving now towards judgement upon Judah but His expressed love for them still comes forth. It helps for us to reflect on God’s goodness to us through the years. There are things we can do to help rekindle that first love experience in our lives. The Lord’s love is rekindled as one calls to mind His covenant that was established through Abraham. It has always been His intent to redeem and restore Israel.
A further elaboration of the restoration that will come upon Ephraim is displayed in verses 5-6. The land that had been decimated by the Assyrians will one day become a fruitful land once again. The watchmen upon the mount of Ephraim shall exhort and point the way to Zion. Remember, it was under Jeroboam where the tribes of the north ceased to come down to Jerusalem but rather chose to establish altars at Bethel. This time they will promote and point the way to Zion in Jerusalem. Ephraim suffered greatly and continues to suffer for its sins. Still, the Lord will not destroy Ephraim but in the end will have mercy upon them. The prophet Hosea spoke to this promise in his book:
Hos 11:9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
The Lord continues to speak encouraging words as to how He will deal with Israel in the long term. He loves them and He will heal and restore the land. The Lord is expressing this before any of the judgements actually took place. This is the heart of a true father. If he sees disobedience in a child and they refuse to take correction he will punish them. It is not a punishment based on frustration but rather on love. He sees the bigger picture. This is why fathers are so needed in the church; they see things from a much bigger perspective and then go about making decisions accordingly.
Ah, another old charismatic song comes to mind in considering verses 12-13. What a beautiful picture of healing and restoration that will be seen at the time of his 2nd coming. There was a partial fulfilment in the period after the 70 years but the greater one will be at the end of the church age. The blessings that will be on the faithful priesthood are shown in verse 14. There will be great joy and abundance. There is a prophetic declaration made in verses 15-17 which came to pass at the time of the Lord’s birth. It speaks of the time when Herod would issue the decree to slay the children of age 2 years and under. There is the exhortation to the spiritual offspring of Rachel to weep no more because of the future restoration to their borders. Those who suffered under Herod’s decree will again come to their place during the millennium.
The Lord appeals to the people to return to the highway of holiness (vs 21). In the last days there will be one of two paths or streams that believers will be traveling. Perhaps it is best captured in what Jesus said concerning the two different paths.
Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
The strait gate can be likened to the stream that flows in righteousness and holiness while the wide gate denotes the stream of wickedness and filth (Rev 22:11). These are two different streams that exist within the church. The Lord desires His people to turn again unto Him and seek unto holiness.
A picture of the Lord is given as well as the accompanying righteous rule that will possess Zion in the last days (vs 22-26. This speaks of a time when true justice will once again reign upon the earth. This becomes more desirable when seeing the breakdown of justice and equity in today’s world. The nations and its people are at peace when the judgements of God are upon the land. The Lord has broken and plucked the works of Israel in this lead up to judgement but will again restore them by establishing and multiplying them again upon the land. The Lord loves gardens and is ever looking for fruit. It is to those who acknowledge Him and His dealings that will be given the promises of abundance. It is a truth seen earlier in Jer 24:6-7. These truths will also be emphasized in Ezekiel’s writings (Eze 36:8-12). In the end it is to the glory of God to have an abundant harvest in His church (Pro 14:28).
There is an important truth conveyed in verses 29-30. It was a saying amongst the people of his period that they suffered under the consequences of the sins of their father’s. This was partly true but they were ignorant of their own condition. The Lord made clear that the sins of the father were not to serve as an excuse for their situation. Yes, we inherit certain traits and in some cases bondages from our parents and forefathers. We need to pray that God would reveal these things so that we see them and be able to repent of them. We are responsible for our lives and we must understand that God makes every provision possible to be broken of hereditary bondages.
The final verses 31-40 have to do with the New Covenant. It has been defined on numerous occasions but we now are at the verse which it is drawn from (vs 33). It is the Law of God being written on the inward part of our heart. The question was asked of Jesus as to whether He had come to destroy the Law. He responded that he did not come to destroy but to fulfil. What does this mean and how can this be interpreted? I feel that the New Covenant is God’s ability to get to the root of where all sin originates. It is the heart where all of the issues of life come forth (Pro 4:23). David understood that the Lord desired Truth on the inward parts of the heart (Psa 51:6). The Law is described as being holy so why is it neglected, marginalized and dismissed in many church circles? It is offensive to many because it reveals who we really are and what is within our heart. One of the primary messages from the captivity that God allowed for Israel was that they came away with a new heart, a heart that knew God, a heart that epitomizes the message of the New Covenant.
Jeremiah is now in prison in what would have been the last year of King Zedekiah’s reign. He was placed there because the king did not like the messages that he was prophesying. Jerusalem was only months away from their destiny with the Babylonians. Though Jeremiah was in a prison, the Lord continued to speak concerning the future Restoration of Jerusalem. It is hard to even imagine the torments that Jeremiah had to go through. His heart broke for his people; he knew the severity of judgements that were coming and was frustrated at every turn by those who opposed his message. God in His mercy gives Jeremiah’s glimpses of the future glory of Israel. How refreshing and encouraging this would be to him.
The Lord tests the faith of Jeremiah while at the same time verifying His (The Lord’s) intent on the future restoration of the city. He instructs Jeremiah to purchase a field. Jeremiah came to know this was a Word of the Lord when Hanameel came to him and told to buy a plot of land. Jeremiah charges Baruch (his scribe) to take the proof of purchase and place them in an earthen vessel as a token for their one-day returning to the land. It was at this point where Jeremiah makes a famous statement concerning the God who is able to do all things. The question is asked, is there anything too hard for God? This question is later repeated in verses 27? He is the maker of heaven and earth and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that is too difficult for our God.
Jeremiah goes on to declare the greatness of God in verses 18-19. The journey of Israel is highlighted in verses 18-19 speaking of the time when they came out of Egypt into the wilderness and later the Promised Land. These verses demonstrate the ingratitude on the part of the children of Israel after all that the Lord had done for them. There seems to be a contradiction as Jeremiah is told to by land in a place where they were preparing to defend against the enemy. This was a true prophetic act unlike what was seen earlier with Hananiah in Jer 28. Jeremiah must have looked foolish in purchasing a plot of ground given the situation as it was at that time. The Jews were building walls of defences and Jeremiah wanted to buy land? This does not make any sense in the natural but then again our God is a supernatural God. The Lord again responds that nothing is too hard for Him and he speaks clearly the upcoming sequence of events. Israel will be taken by the Babylonians while at the same time listing some of the prominent sins which have taken hold of His people. These sins include Idolatry, various abominations and the refusal to hear and apply the teachings and instructions of appointed leaders.
The final verses speak of the wonderful future promise that Israel will come to know. They will have one heart to know Him, He will be their God and an everlasting covenant shall be made with them (vs 38-40). They will also come to know the Fear of the Lord which will enable them to walk humbly and in harmony with God. The Lord will look to do them good and he will greatly rejoice over them (Zeph 3:17). God will plant, establish and cause them to flourish. They will purchase property and lands as a fulfilment to the prophetic act seen in Jeremiah when he purchased the land. The Lord is graciously allowing Jeremiah to see the reasons for the buying of the land. This is a beautiful revelation that God is allowing Jeremiah to be witness to. One can only surmise how much of a blessing this proved to be to him. Jeremiah came to know the following truth taken from Heb 12:2.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This chapter is very personal to me. It was Sunday, July 24, 1983 when a man of God came to our church and preached exclusively from this chapter. It was such a timely and needy message seeing what the church had just been going through. The church literally split in two and the message from this chapter was like a healing balm to our pastor and the remaining church flock. What was the basis of the split? Well, here is another date to consider. It was a Sunday morning, December 12, 1982 when the same man of God came to our church and preached a message on the Cross. He shared that the Lord had given him revelation of the Cross-he had never seen before. There was no denying the weightiness of what God was speaking. The appeal at the end of the service was a sobering one as we were asked as to whether we were willing to take the way of the Cross. Everyone knew there would be a price to pay if we were to raise our hands. Over the next several months, things began to happen in the church. The messages began to be offensive to certain ones and they in turn found others who were also likewise offended. There was one person in particular who was subtly leading the revolt. He attended a well-known faith preachers conference and came back fired up with all kinds of hyper faith teachings. These teachings were at variance with what God was saying to our church. In fact, we could say that this one man was like Hananiah and my Pastor being akin to Jeremiah. Hananiah spoke messages that sounded good to several other members of the church and as a result, many gravitated towards it. My pastor was faithful in proclaiming the Truth and upholding the message of the Cross. It is this experience that took place about 35 years ago that still resonates strongly with me. It is this experience that helps the Book of Jeremiah that we have been summarising come so alive. I can inject myself in some measure into this narrative hence my passion in linking the message of Jeremiah to our day.
What is so special about this chapter that so blessed our church in 1983 to this day? What was it about this chapter that so blessed Jeremiah? It begins with Jeremiah being in a prison for the 2nd time. Who says that God would never allow His own elect to suffer in a prison? He then receives this beautiful promise in verse 3 to call upon the Lord. The Lord will answer him and show him great and mighty things that he could never conceive. The blessings of health and cure coupled with the abundance of peace and truth is given in verse 6. These words were very real to us as a church and they continue to bless and minister to this day. Remember, Jeremiah is being given these beautiful promises while he is yet in a prison. He is being shown the future glory of Israel while at the same time being ministered to by the Lord in his prison. In verse 8, there is the promise of being cleansed from all iniquity. Yes, the message of the pending captivity under Babylon is a severe judgement but the long term fruit is eternal. There will be great joy and rejoicing that will take place as well as the voice of the bride and the bridegroom that would be heard (vs 11).
There is the beautiful promise of coming to know the one of the names of the Lord as seen in verse 15. (The Lord our righteousness) it is a revelation of His righteousness whereby we become changed more into His likeness. It is the opportunity in having his righteousness imparted and worked within the fabric of the church. There is also the promise of the multiplication of the seed, speaking of an increase in the church (vs 22).
Some of these promises have been realized and continue to be a blessing while yet others remain unfulfilled. I have lived through this experience and am convinced that God will yet fulfil his Word. This is one of those chapters where there is a direct application to Israel regarding its future promises. It is also a very personal one which speaks specifically to me. I am of the view that the Bible has the ability to become a Living Word within God’s people. If we are sincere, I believe the Holy Spirit can help place us within many of the familiar narratives of His Word. It requires of us to be honest and transparent. The events in 1982 and 1983 still resonate strongly but I feel there has been a certain purchase made regarding these truths. There was and is a price to pay but in the end, it is so worth it. One would imagine Jeremiah saying the same thing. He paid a price that none of us could ever fully appreciate but he saw the value of answering and being obedient to God’s call. It does cost something to stand up for truth. Finally, it is noteworthy to consider what happened to the ringleader and those who followed him in our church back in 1983. Many of them no longer follow the Lord and those who still attend church have settled for an inferior inheritance. The teachable moments of these years have left an impression upon me. I am concerned today at many of the alternative doctrines that are circulating throughout the church world. The events of 35 years ago have helped to provide a window as to what is happening today.
2 Pet 3
Peter calls this his second epistle and exhorts his audience to give heed to the writings and words of the prophets and apostles of old. We saw earlier how the message of Peter linked with the ministry of Jeremiah especially in the area of false teachers and prophets. When going back to the Book of Acts we saw how Peter was able to quote the words of the prophet Joel. He had the ability to tie much of the spoken words from the prophets of old into New Testament reality. As we approach the last days there will be many who will take issue with any talk of the 2nd coming. In addition there will be those who mock, deride and oppose anything that has to do with Christianity. Do you not think that this is taking place today? This kind of atmosphere is always accompanied by all forms of immorality. This contributes to a stupor and dullness among the people. There is no sense of doing wrong because the consciences have been so seared. Peter is speaking to us today.
When man is ensnared in sin, he will seek to find ways to justify his lifestyle. Have you ever noticed immoral Hollywood actors/actresses, musicians and sporting athletes taking up some sort of humane cause? They try to take comfort that in doing something good their sinful lifestyle can be condoned. It is just another form of fig leaf to cover up their transgression. In verse 5, Peter speaks of man seeking to be willingly ignorant of Truth so that he cannot be charged or found to be guilty of sin. This is why there are atheists, freethinkers etc. Peter is making the point that in choosing these alternatives, they are making a choice and they will be held accountable. Peter goes on to add that the God they seek to be unwilling to acknowledge is the same God that keeps their life intact. One can only pity such people when they stand before their creator, the one they chose to be ignorant of when giving an account of their life.
The timetable of God is much different than that of man. One thousand years to the Lord is likened to one of our days. This verse can be related to the time of creation when the Lord worked for 6 days and then rested on the seventh. This is how we come to know of the number of years given to man (6000). The one day that the Lord rested is where we come to know the truth of the millennium. It helps to understand God’s timetable because it will differ from ours. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise even though it may seem like it will never come to pass. We need to learn to rest in the timing of God. The long-suffering characteristic of God is highlighted in verse 9. Notice that it is God’s intent that all men might be saved. This is His heart and desire but sadly, not all men will be saved. It is a choice and choice is something that God does not force upon us. He is a God of longsuffering and goes to any length to see men come to know the plan of salvation (Acts 13:46).
Peter gives a picture of what will happen at the time of the 2nd coming and at the time when this world will come to an end. They are two different events. The day of the Lord speaks of the 2nd coming when He comes to judge the nations at Armageddon. This begins the 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth at Jerusalem. At the end of the 1000 years the earth will dissolve making way for the new heaven and new earth. This is what Peter is alluding to in verses 11-12. Peter emphasizes this point so that his audience will consider how they live their life today. Our life on earth is but a drop in a huge bucket. The Apostle James likened it to a puff of smoke, a vapour that appears for a moment and then disappears. (Jam 4:14) What we do in that small piece of time on this earth determines our eternal destiny. Peter, in this his last letter is striving emphatically to make that point.
Peter speaks of Paul in verses 15-16. He had a great respect and admiration for his ministry and does admit that some of his teachings were a bit hard to understand. He goes on to say that those who do not live uprightly or those who have ulterior motives will work at altering and or redefining scripture. This is why the last days will see a variety of different doctrines being promoted in the churches. Is it any wonder that both Peter and Paul spoke out about seducing doctrines that will infiltrate the body of Christ in the last days? (2 Tim 4:3) The final words and exhortation of Peter are that man would not fall away from his steadfastness. He makes it known that they have been warned and that they know the Truth. How then can one not fall into this trap and tactic of the enemy? Peter answers in verse 18 by exhorting that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. His closing remarks resemble what he wrote earlier in 2 Pet 1:5-7. It is to build upon the foundation of faith and to have added the different graces by faith. In doing so we shall not fall short of the promise that God has made available for us.
2Pe 1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.