JEREMIAH 40:1 – 42:22 and 1 JOHN 2:18–29
The city of Jerusalem has now fallen into the hands of the Babylonians. So what became of Jeremiah during this time? How was Jerusalem administered now that the Babylonians were in control? The Babylonians appointed a local governor by the name of Gedaliah. He was a Jew and he had oversight of the day to day affairs in the city. He of course was accountable to the Babylonians. Later when the Persians would conquer the territory they would appoint Zerubbabel as governor over the region.
In verses 1-6 there is an amazing conversation between the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard and Jeremiah. Nebuzaradan, the guard was well informed of the prophesies that Jeremiah had spoken over Israel. How is it that a heathen guard can have the knowledge and understanding of the prophecies while most of Israel lived in ignorance of them? He could see that the God of Israel was the true and living God but Israel could not. It is absolutely amazing! The captain of the guard treated Jeremiah favourably and allowed him to go to Gedaliah. He (Gedaliah) likewise saw the hand of God at work and declared that Israel should serve the Babylonians. The need for discernment will be crucial in the last days. It could well be that the Lord will allow for enemy nations to invade foreign lands as a result of His declared judgement. The natural tendency would be to take up arms in patriotic fervour to combat these forces but it would be to no avail. I somehow cannot help but visualize something like this happening to my own nation of America. I sorely grieve for the sins of America and for what is coming. We must believe and lay hold of a mighty revival to shake the land but only then it may well be temporary as it was in the days of King Josiah.
There was a gathering of people, a remnant from amongst many of the other provinces and nations such as Moab, Edom and Ammon. They came to Gedaliah who was in Mizpah due to Jerusalem being destroyed. This was where Samuel judged Israel and it was the place where Saul was chosen to be king (1 Sam 7:15). The people were encouraged that there was one of their own who had the administrative charge of the territory. They had the added blessing of a fruitful harvest during that particular summer (vs 12).
There is an interesting event spoken of in verses 13-16. Johanna who was one of the captain of the forces discloses to Gedaliah that there is a plot to kill him involving the king of the Ammonites. He goes on to add that there is a man by the name of Ishmael who has been tasked by the king to follow through on this act. Gedaliah did not believe the report and dissuaded Johanna from acting on his behalf. Johanna was insistent that this report was true but Gedaliah felt that the reports concerning Ishmael were false.
This is something we need to be very careful of. It is wisdom to take such a matter to the Lord and get His mind concerning it. Johanna may not have been a man of the best reputation nonetheless his warnings should have been taken more seriously than just a simple dismissal. Several years ago while serving in India I was confronted with a death threat that came to my attention by my compound manager. It is not unusual to have threatening’s made and this was not the first time but this threat had a ring of authenticity due to it. There was considerable tension over an issue that had been playing out over several months. We prayed, took precautions which included alerting our leadership in the USA. They too felt that it needed to be taken seriously. Two days later the police came to our compound premises for the purpose of looking for the person who had issued the death threat against me. (He was a former worker of ours) It turns out that this man was now wanted for the murder of his wife which was indirectly related to our matter. He was found two days later and later sent to prison. The point is that there are times when God speaks warnings and they are not to be taken lightly. They should be submitted to the Lord and then seek for what His counsel should be. We shall see the sad consequences of Gedaliah’s refusal to heed the warning of Johanna in the next chapter.
The treachery of Ishmael is now fully realized as he assassinates Gedaliah and those Jews who were gathered with him. The consequences of not paying heed to the warnings of Johanna were immense as it not only cost him his life but the life of many other brethren as well. Ishmael was so wicked that he lulled a company of about 80 men who came from the regions of Shiloh and Samaria for the purpose of bringing an offering to the Lord. They were also slain except for a few men who pleaded for their life saying that they had hidden treasures in the field. He then took the captives including the women over into the land of the Ammonites. There was no other leader of repute to give guidance and direction. Gedaliah had the credentials; he had vision and he had understanding of the land and knew how to administrate under the Babylonian rule. This was a huge setback and it could have been avoided (vs 1-10).
The word got out concerning what Ishmael had done to Gedaliah and those with him prompting Johann and his forces to go after them. There was a great rejoicing amongst the captives as Johanna and his forces came riding in to rescue them. In reading this account there is the natural urge to see justice exacted upon Ishmael for his diabolical actions against Gedaliah and those aligned with him. In this case, Ishmael was able to escape along with a few others and there is no record of their being caught. This seems to be one of those rare cases where scripture does not record retribution upon such evil but suffice it to say that in the balances of eternity such actions will be accounted for. This can happen in our life as well. We do well not to be consumed with vengeance since it belongs to the Lord.
Johanna was valiant in rescuing the remnant of the people but he was not wise in his leadership due to his positioning them in the way of Egypt. The word of the Lord to Jeremiah on many occasions was that they were not to seek the arm of flesh to assist them nor to go unto these nations. The word was to submit to the Chaldeans and things would go well for them. This is why the leadership of Gedaliah was so pivotal. He saw the big picture and he understood the plan and purpose of God. His being assassinated left the remnant rudderless and without direction.
It is difficult to reconcile how Gedaliah could take so lightly the threat of murder that was placed upon his life. He had vision, wisdom and direction and was well suited to be God’s administrator on behalf of the faithful remnant in Babylon. Why did God allow such a tragedy to take place seeing that many other innocents were caught up in the carnage? It is a question that is difficult to answer but it does heighten the need for discernment and awareness of the enemy’s tactics at all times. One of the key attributes of the early restorers that will come out of Babylon will be their keen sense of discernment. It will be seen with Joshua and Zerubbabel who will be among those who are the first to return. (Please see Ezra 4:1-4) It will also be seen in the life of Nehemiah as he goes about the building of the wall. Perhaps this incident helped to sharpen the discerning acumen of the early restorers. In any case it was a costly lesson to learn.
Johanna and his men exercise wisdom in seeking after Jeremiah and seeking from him the Word of the Lord. They make it abundantly clear that they will do whatever the Word of the Lord would instruct of them. Johanna and the remnant have been through a difficult period; they knew they needed help and guidance and felt that Jeremiah would give a word that would help stabilize them (vs 1-6).
The Word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah after 10 days. It is interesting to take note of 10 days because it is a number that can speak of testing. There were 10 plagues in Egypt, 10 commandments given to Moses and 10 days between the time the Lord ascended and the outpouring at Pentecost. We also know that there were 10 testing’s in the wilderness prior to their going into Canaan. We all know the result of what happened at Kadesh Barnea right? The 10th test was the command to go in and possess the land but they failed to do so. They put a greater premium on the giants that were resisting than on the Word of the Lord which had always proven to be true. Perhaps Johanna and those who were with him were being honest when they first said that they would do whatever the Lord would say. Are we not like that only to find we change our mind or go back on or word? The number 10 is also the number of the Law and it is the Law that God wants to have placed and written upon our hearts. What was God’s instruction to Johanna? It was consistent with what Jeremiah had been prophesying right up to the time of the captivity. If they would stay in the land and submit to the Chaldeans they would not be harmed and they would be planted and established there. God was giving a most gracious opportunity to them. The Lord made clear that His mercies would be upon them and that He would save them from the hand of the king. In fact, the Lord goes on to say that the king himself would have mercy upon them. The Lord was willing to go to great lengths to accommodate Johanna and the remnant with him provided they heeded His Word to stay in the land (vs 7-12).
The warnings are then given in verses 13-16 if they chose to disobey. It seems that Jeremiah had an indication that they would refuse to hear the Word of the Lord. It’s not like this has not happened before. Still, when weighing all that had already transpired the Word of the Lord that came to them was magnanimous and filled with many blessings. If they would just pause and reflect on the big picture it should have been a no brainer response. Jeremiah follows through on the warning that he gave them that if they refuse to acknowledge and obey the Word of the Lord and continued to set their heart upon Egypt then the sword that they feared would be the sword that would overtake them. This is exactly what happened with King Zedekiah yet he would not listen and suffered the same consequence.
The Word of the Lord continues as to what would happen if they sought Egypt for their refuge. We can see indications of their being inclined towards Egypt after Johanna rescued the remnant (Jer 41). This is a warning to us because Egypt represents the world and it is to the world where many today are seeking their help. It can take on the shape of many different forms. Instead of going to the one who can answer all our needs we tend to look to the world for relief. It can be through entertainment to fill inner spiritual voids or to humanism to help bring perspective. The warnings being given to Johanna are the very same warnings for the church of the last days. Johanna and those with him had 10 days before God’s Word came back to them. Their response would now reflect what is actually in their heart. God was making a way for them if they would only obey. The message of obedience continues through to our day; will we hear and respond to what God would speak to us? It is easy to say to the Lord that we will do whatever He speaks, especially when under pressure. Our response will be reflected by ultimately what is in our heart. This will be the case with Johanna as we shall see in Jer 43.
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.