JEREMIAH 37:1 – 39:18 and 1 JOHN 2:1–17
Jeremiah will now prophesy concerning events before the fall of Jerusalem. King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah was reigning at this time and he summoned Jeremiah to come before him. King Zedekiah would have been aware of how Isaiah prayed on behalf of Hezekiah at the time of the Assyrian siege and no doubt felt that God could and would do the same for Israel. King Zedekiah’s attitude is not an isolated case. He saw the trouble that was brewing, he knew God could deliver but he never showed inclination to respond to the Word of the Lord. In fact, he troubled Jeremiah for speaking the Truth. A brief summary of King Zedekiah’s life can be found in 2 Chr 36:11-13.
The Word of the Lord is then specifically given to King Zedekiah in verses 6-10. The Chaldeans (Babylonians) withdrew for a time from Jerusalem to go and fight with Egypt. This sent the false hope that the Chaldeans would not return to Jerusalem. This brief reprieve emboldened Zedekiah and others like him to believe that Jeremiah’s prophesies concerning a coming captivity are no longer relevant. This is so typical to people who live in rebellion to God. They feel that God has once again come through for them on their terms and then go right on carrying forth in their evil ways. The people who took issue with Samuel when he declared that they were not yet ready for a king chided him over the early successes of Saul (1 Sam 11). This same precedent exists today. One of the ways in which the church will divide in the last days will be along these lines. Here is the danger; a people who reject the Word of the Lord may well feel vindicated for a season due to events that reflect their position. They will become even more emboldened against truth. “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Heb 4:7).
In verses 11-16 Jeremiah is placed in a prison because of the prophecies that consistently speak of submitting to the Chaldeans. The princes of the city accuse Jeremiah of being complicit with the Babylonians because of his prophetic words. Try to put this in a modern day context in America. Let’s say one of the Asian superpower nations make a move against the USA and you as a prophet speak that it is a judgement from the Lord and it is futile to fight against them. As a prophet, how do you think you would be received? The opposition would not just come from the American people but also the majority of the church. Where is your patriotism, where is your belief and faith in God? I only write this as an example but the similarities make me shudder. I also want to make clear that our position should always be to cry out on behalf of our nations and believe for God to be merciful.
In verses 11-16, the King asks Jeremiah the 2nd time concerning what God is saying concerning their dire situation as a nation. Jeremiah repeats what he has said before and then asks about what the other prophets shared who said there would be no such captivity. King Zedekiah recognized that Jeremiah had a mantle upon him but could never accept the Word of the Lord that he spoke. Let’s contrast Jeremiah with Balaam for a moment. Balaam was a recognized prophet but in the end brought forth a message that entangled the people of God in sin at the time God was looking to bring them into their inheritance. His heart could be bought with a price and Balak was able to discover it. Jeremiah could have had favour with the king if he were to prophesy a more palatable message. This is a test of an anointed man. People will come to recognize the anointing that resides on such a person and they know that a favourable Word from a known prophet or leader will carry considerable clout. One of my All-time favourite movies (Man for all Seasons) conveys this truth so well. Sir Thomas More, chancellor of the realm for King Henry VIII opposed the king’s proposed 2nd marriage to Anne Boylen. All of England sided with the king with Thomas More being the lone dissenting voice. The king could care less about having all of England with him; he was consumed in having Thomas More’s consent. In the end his stand for truth cost him his life. The prophetic words of Jeremiah were the only voice that King Zedekiah cared about nonetheless Jeremiah remained faithful to his office and his call.
This chapter begins with the princes hearing once again the words of Jeremiah that made clear that things would go well for the people if they would submit before the Chaldeans. They saw Jeremiah as treasonous and siding with them but it was the Word of the Lord. There was a brief reprieve from the Chaldeans seeing that they were currently engaged against Egypt. They came to the point of no longer being able to put up with his contrary prophetic words so they placed him within a prison.
In verses 4-6, these princes appeal to the king to have Jeremiah destroyed for the words that he was speaking against Judah. It is here where we see the weakness of King Zedekiah; one assumes that he knew that Jeremiah was innocent even though he did not prophesy according to his wishes. He did not have the character to defend Jeremiah but under pressure he allowed them to do what they wanted to him. It is important to have a love for righteousness and those things that are right but we must also have the courage of conviction. This needs to be called upon under times of great pressure. This was one of the commandments that God gave to Joshua before he went in to possess the land. There must be the courage of conviction to observe, keep and teach on the Law of God (Jos 1:9). It is failure in this area which has led Israel into their current state. It is the very same issue that has allowed today’s modern day church to be found in the same place.
In verses, 7-13 there is an Ethiopian believer who intervenes on behalf of Jeremiah. What a sad testimony it is in seeing that it is someone outside of Israel that stands up for Jeremiah. He went to the king and pleaded for his release. He is like the Good Samaritan who came and did that which Israel would not do (Luke 10:33). The King gave the order to have him take 30 men and draw him up from the pit before he died. As mentioned before King Zedekiah was not happy with the Words of Jeremiah but he seemed to not have any personal animus against him. He was only concerned about saving his own skin and maintaining his reputation. This is not good enough, Truth needs to be defended and upheld. Jeremiah was taken up from the dungeon and allowed to circulate in the courts of the prison which was a far better place than where he was.
King Zedekiah now seeks after Jeremiah for a 3rd time. Zedekiah was someone who can be likened to one always seeking for a sign or some new thing but never willing to acknowledge and do that which the Lord is speaking. Put another way; he was a hearer but not a doer. Why are there people who seem to go from church to church always looking for the next new thing? Usually it is because they are rejecting an area of truth; not obeying something the Lord is putting His finger on. I guess we can put King Zedekiah into this category. In verses 15-16 Jeremiah seeks assurance from the king that he will not put him to death or react adversely to what God speaks through the Word of the Lord. The King consents to Jeremiah and promises to not kill him.
Jeremiah speaks to the King and says if you will go and present yourself to the king of Babylon’s princes then you will live and things would go well for you. In addition, Zedekiah was given the promise that the city would not be burned. Just think how things would have been different if Zedekiah would have hearkened to the Word of the Lord at this point? His ending would have been favourable just as it was for one of his predecessors by the name of King Manasseh who repented for his grievous transgressions. Think now of the fruits of Zedekiah’s decision in disobeying the Word of the Lord. The judgement did not just affect him but that of Jerusalem as well. It really helps put things in perspective when it comes to see the importance of being both a hearer and doer of God’s Word. One gets the sense that Zedekiah truly believed Jeremiah but as is the case with many today, he had a fear of man. This is seen in much of today’s politics. People may have convictions but they go to great lengths to be perceived favourably by man and an all-consuming news media. Somewhere deep down within the core of man has to be the willingness to stand for Truth and what is right regardless of what people think or say. The Christian Leaders of today are being tested in much the same way as Zedekiah. It is here where we see another one of those striking contrasts involving two men; which of the two do we resemble? Do we fear God or do we fear man? The answer may not be as easy to answer as one may think. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to not fear man and only do what the Word of the Lord is instructing. None of these things would have had to happen to him if he would have only given heed to the Word of the Lord. His future disobedience brought about the very things he feared. This will be picked up again with another group in Jer 42 and 43.
The last few verses show that Jeremiah remained in captivity up until the time Jerusalem was taken. He demonstrates clearly how a prophet can come to the place of experiencing one’s own message. Do you really want to be a true end-time prophet?
Jeremiah now begins to speak concerning some of the events that took place at the time of the fall of Jerusalem. He begins with Zedekiah who refused to listen to the Word of the Lord right up to the end. He was later captured as he tried to flee the city. In resisting the will of God he not only brought great suffering upon himself but upon the city as well. Sadly, the Word of the Lord came to pass as Zedekiah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar. One of the last things he saw were his sons being slain before his own eyes were plucked out. What a horrible judgement and it was only the beginning. At the time of the removal of the Ark from Shiloh it was said concerning the ruling high priest Eli that he was old and of dim vision (1 Sam 4:15). It is not unusual for an old man to have his vision diminished but it speaks of the spiritual condition of the land. When the Ark was taken, there was yet no king in Israel. The main high priest had no vision for what was taking place and he made allowance for his wicked sons to pollute the ministry of the priesthood. At the taking of Israel into captivity, we see that the king loses his natural vision through violence but it denotes the spiritual reality of Israel at this time. They were blind, deaf and dumb spiritually. Here is an interesting thought! One of the last things that Eli experienced as the Ark was taken was the death of his sons Hophni and Phineas. At the fall of Israel before Babylon Zedekiah had to witness the death of his sons. Both men lost their sons, and lost their sight signifying no vision. Where there is no progressive onward vision people dwell foolishly (Pro 28:19)
In verses 8-10 there is the burning of the king’s house and the houses of the people and the walls of the city. Remember, this could have been avoided if Zedekiah would have only listened to the Word of the Lord. The poor of the land though were spared and given provisions and land to till. God remembers the poor as stated in Psa 72:12.
The king (Nebuchadnezzar) gave a charge concerning the care of Jeremiah. God allowed him to find favor with the king. This is a fulfilment of the Word of the Lord and it was a blessing that others from Israel could have come to know if they would have obeyed God’s Word. The Lord can bring a man into favor with an enemy if his life proves to be pleasing to him (Pro 16:7).
Do you remember the kindness of the Ethiopian man by the name of Ebedmelech who interceded on Jeremiah’s behalf before the king (Jer 38:13-17)? God rewards this man for his kindness. The Lord spared his life in the midst of the siege upon the city. Truly, God takes note of all acts of kindness towards his own and rewards accordingly. A kind word, a warm smile or a drink of water to one who is thirsty are kindnesses that draw the attention of the Lord. The rewards may not be immediately seen but they are remembered by God. Let the example of Ebedmelech inspire us to pray and uphold the men and women of God, especially when the pressures begin to increase upon the church.
1 John 2
John speaks on the subject of sin as he opens this chapter. He strongly advocates that we are not to sin but if we do happen to fall we have an advocate whom we can turn to in time of need. Jesus is our advocate to the Father who makes continual intercession on our behalf (Heb 7:25). We need to make it a daily decision in drawing upon God’s available grace to overcome the stronghold of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ became sin so that we can be reconciled to the Father; He knows the power of sin and has the ability to give the needed grace to overcome sin provided we learn to come boldly to the throne of grace. As we grow in grace, the nature of sin begins to die. If we do not seek to come before the throne of grace that sin nature will remain alive and potentially become stronger.
The key indicator in knowing God and loving Him is in our ability to keep his commandments (vs 4-5). This has been Israel’s problem all along in the Old Testament. They did not keep the commandments and statutes of God. We can say the right things and have the appearance that all is well but the bottom line is whether we keep God’s commandments or not. That is the absolute proof of our Christianity. We can sugar-coat our Christian experience in a number of ways. The rich young ruler in the gospels by all accounts lived a godly Christian life (Mk 10:17-22). Jesus required one more thing and that was to sell his goods and give to the poor. This he could not do so he sadly walked away from the taking up of his cross. There are many today who profess Christ but who are not keepers of His commandments. John identifies such people as those who are liars, those who keep not the truth. Each of us needs to be circumspect in this area because we may feel that all is well and right in our lives. What is God speaking to us today? Are we hiding from that Word due to its relevance? Do we cover up or gloss over that Word or commandment by emphasizing other godly attributes in our lives? This is what Saul did when he was tested in the area of Agag and the Amalekites. He did do a portion of what God said and he took comfort in the victory that took place. God however commended that he totally destroy the king and everything pertaining to him. It was on this issue where Saul lost the anointing. We can make a similar case regarding Samson as well. Is there an issue that God is seeking to put his finger on in our lives? It is the ones who keep His Word where the love of God becomes perfected within an individual (vs 5) (1 Sam 15:22).
In verses 6-11 John instructs in how we are to love one another. If we have a genuine love for one another, the light of God shines forth within and throughout us. Jesus was the light of the world and He walked in love, purity and holiness (John 8:12). He set the standard for us and we are to seek to have such a walk ourselves. It is a love that goes deeper than the surface but one that esteems others greater than ourselves. If we love in word only we deceive ourselves and pave the way for darkness to enter in. The same point can be made regarding unity. There is a unity that can bind people at a surface level but true unity and love must go much deeper. It will be tested to determine the level of love we have our brethren. The rich young ruler appeared to be a good man but had to be tested as to the depth of love he had for others. His love for riches prevented him from releasing his riches to help meet the need of others. How will we respond when the Lord tests us in our respective moment? Will we acknowledge the darkness and seek for grace to respond positively to His Word and commandment? John is challenging his hearers at a high level in this epistle. This thought is fleshed out in greater detail as he now speaks of the three divisions of believers that exist in the church.
In verses, 12-14 there are three levels of maturity that are addressed. They are designated in the categories of Fathers, young men and little children. The three levels are a consistent theme seen throughout the Word of God. There are the three divisions of Moses Tabernacle, the three levels of productivity (30-60 and 100 fold) and the three levels that Paul saw regarding the heavens (2 Cor 12:2) and many others that could be noted. These distinctions help to identify the areas of a growth in the life of a believer. Paul, when writing to the Corinthian church and to Hebrews made mention of the church consisting of spiritual babes who have never passed from the milk feeding stage. They cannot handle or choose to handle the stronger truths from God’s Word. He also speaks of many teachers but very few fathers (1 Cor 4:15). John uses the analogy of fathers, young men and little children. I would like to highlight the distinction made between the Fathers and little children as seen in verses 13-14. Upon first glance there seems to be little or no difference between the two since both are cited as knowing Him. The key though is seeing that the Fathers are those who have known Him (God) from the beginning. The reference to “beginning” is not mentioned when pertaining to the little children. So what is the point? The Fathers are those who know the God from the beginning; the God that we see in Genesis. Fathers are those who see and operate from a bigger picture. Jesus established his doctrine when challenged by referencing what His Father had ordained from the beginning (Math 19:8, Mark 10:6). Fathers in the church are those who see life today as having their roots in Genesis. They understand the truths surrounding Melchizedec (Gen 14:18) as being a type of the king/priest type of a believer that will be seen in the last days. Fathers understand the distinction between Cain and Abel in their offerings as it pertains to faith; they also see the origins of murder and the power of the New Covenant through the account of Cain and Abel (Math 5:17, 21-22, Jer 31:33). Fathers in the church are those who have a much deeper understanding of who God is as conveyed in the beginning. They have a broader understanding of seeing Jesus as the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and end. Fathers make decisions based on their bigger picture revelation. John has absolute authority to speak on this subject seeing that he is the premier father figure in the church in his day. One does not become a father or mother figure in the church overnight. It is a process of growth and now more than ever we need to see true father figures emerge to the forefront. They help to being perspective, guidance and wisdom. The teaching on the Father heart of God is gaining much needed traction in today’s church. There is a need for BEING a father in much the same way that John was to his generation. John had such intimacy with God, which resulted in great revelation. He (John) sets the standard for what is needed in this hour.
John goes on to warn against having a love for the world. The world is like a magnet and it constantly pulls and tugs at the heart of believers to be brought into its web (vs 15-17). What does our heart respond and gravitate towards? Is it to the elements of this world; is to it delights and entertainments or is it to the things of God? A church leader of our day puts it this way; “Are we more into Facebook or into THE Book?” To me that is a very fair question to ask. I shudder to think what the worldwide response would be in answering that question. The world and its pleasures speak of darkness in contrast to the light of God, His Word and His ways. This question is an important one especially when considering the following verses (vs 19-20).There is a spirit of antichrist circulating today in helping to pave the way for the eventual arrival of the man of sin (Antichrist). The spirit of antichrist does serve a purpose in weaning out those who are not of the true vision. The spirit of antichrist will seek to access that which is within the heart of man. This spirit not only paves the way for the antichrist but it also separates people who are not of the true vision. It is imperative that we keep our hearts in check; to pray as David did in asking the Lord to search our heart and to make it clean, to have truth on the inward parts (Psa 51:6).
John closes this chapter by speaking on the abiding anointing that is available to believers (vs 20-27). This anointing helps to keep us in check provided we seek the Lord daily for His needed touch. This anointing helps to ensure the Fear of the Lord is at work so that we have that sense of His continual presence at all times. This will help to keep darkness at bay while having an increased hunger for His light and presence. This abiding anointing will be given to those who seek the Word of the Lord, study the Word of the Lord and then do the Word of the Lord (vs 24).This abiding anointing will allow for true discernment to be employed in the midst of great deception and darkness. This anointing will pave the way for the teaching of right doctrine that will help bring hope and perspective to the church in a time of crisis. In order for this to be a reality, it will require fathers and mothers of stature to arise. When one seriously meditates upon these verses, we see that John’s primary audience was for those in the church who will be living in the last days. I guess we had better pay very close heed to what he is saying.