JEREMIAH 43:1 – 45:5 and 1 JOHN 3:1–24
As anticipated, Johanna and those with him rejected the Word of the Lord that was given to them. The declared Word did not fit their narrative; they even went as far to say that this was a plot by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe) so that they would be taken captive by the Chaldeans and be brought forth to Babylon. This is often the case when the Word of the Lord is rejected. Man will seek to find ways to excuse or place blame when the Word is not accepted. It’s very sad when considering the golden opportunity that God was giving these men. Johanna was responsible for the lives of many people. He was used of God to deliver the remnant from Ishmael; he was used of God to warn Gedaliah against the treachery of Ishmael yet in the end he rejects the Word of the Lord (vs 1-4).
In verses 5-7 Johanna and his men took all the people, including Jeremiah and Baruch into Egypt in violation of the Word of the Lord. God’s patience and long-suffering for Israel has now come to a climax. God has exhausted his arm of compassion and longsuffering for Israel after they rejected His gracious overtures. Their flight into Egypt was not God’s will and it was not His will for Jeremiah to be there though he had no choice or say in the matter. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah concerning the judgement that would come upon Egypt by way of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. This invasion took place about 18 years after the fall of Jerusalem. God used the Babylonians to destroy their idols and to render the nation into insignificance for a number of years. Jeremiah the prophet came to know an experience that the Apostle Paul would later discover. Though he was in Egypt, he was able to minister the Word of the Lord to the other Jews who were taken away with him.
2Ti 2:9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
The Word of God cannot be contained in a prison or a captive environment. No matter the situation we may find ourselves in the Word of the Lord is not bound. The key is to make sure the Word is burning within each of us. Paul spent a number of years in prison and yet the Word of the Lord was not bound. In fact, the Word found its greatest expression through Paul while in prison. Jeremiah was faithful in declaring God’s Word to Johanna as well as to all the Jews in the lead up to Babylon. He was taken to Egypt against his will but the Lord was still able to use him as an instrument of blessing. The culture of our day is doing everything it can to remove God from public life. It cannot take Christ out of the heart unless we allow our hearts to be defiled and overcome with the wiles and allurements of the world. Johanna had it in his heart to lean towards Egypt (the world) while not putting trust in the Word of God. This temporary refuge later became destroyed in greater measure than Jerusalem. Johanna had great potential; he was a leader of great influence but in the end he made a wrong choice which affected him and countless other people. If we are in any kind of leadership position today may we take good heed from this example. We need to answer the question as to where we are leading people and to whom are we placing their trust.
Jeremiah now speaks to the Jews who are scattered throughout regions of Egypt. He reminds them of the sins of Israel through the years and the devastating consequences that have now played out throughout Judah. The people were well aware of the judgements that had now come upon their homeland for their years of idolatry and disobedience to the Word of the Lord. The Lord is warning them to repent of their idolatry. One of the primary purposes for Israel being led into Babylon was for the purging of idolatry. Israel was actually becoming worse than the nations that they were called to be an example to (vs 1-6).
The Word of the Lord to the remnant seemed to be falling upon deaf ears. They were privy to the destruction that had come upon their homeland yet they persisted in keeping to their old ways. They had the additional advantage of having Jeremiah with them as he pleaded with them to hearken to God’s Word and warning. You would think that after all that had transpired that they would get the message. What does it actually take to get people’s attention? The nature of God is to consistently plead with a people to come out of their sins. His mercies are even seen in judgement as He seeks to send warnings as to what can happen if there is no repentance. In the period of the millennium, there will be an open portal into hell where people can see the torment of the lost. This again is an expression of the mercy of God as He continues to reach out to man (Isa 66:24). In the end it all comes down to choice. It is clear that man will be without excuse when he stands before the living God.
The Lord now speaks concerning the judgement that will come upon those who escaped into Egypt. They may have experienced a temporary reprieve by not being a partaker of the judgements that came upon Jerusalem but they will not escape the sword that is coming their way by the Babylonians when they come through Egypt. Their judgement will be even worse seeing that they had the advantage of seeing the events in Jerusalem and in having the benefit of the ministry of Jeremiah. An additional judgement is that they will never return to their own land.
The open defiance of the remnant is now clearly seen in verses 15-18. They make clear that they will no longer listen to Jeremiah while continuing to worship other gods. It is an open defiance to their peril seeing that they were coming against the Word of the Lord. Once a heart becomes hardened, there is little hope of turning back. This will be clearly seen in the last days as the judgements of God begin to be poured out upon the earth. In these judgements, God will still be pleading with man to repent. Sadly, man will only become more emboldened and hardened against the things of God (Rev 9:20).
Jeremiah now declares that the Lord’s judgements upon them will soon come to pass. They showed no intent of changing from their ways and they made it clear that they would continue to offer sacrifices to their false gods. They saw their temporary reprieve of judgement as a blessing that came from their gods as opposed to the long-suffering of God in seeking for them to repent.
The Lord even speaks of signs that will come to pass in trying to convince the people that His Word is true and that what He says He will do will come to pass. One of those signs was that the reigning Pharaoh would be slain. This word was quite similar to the word that came to Israel before the taking of King Zedekiah into captivity. Still in spite of all the warnings and signs that were given to the remnant of Israel in Egypt they would not hearken or obey. These testimonies are sobering because we see similar develops taking place today. We have become a desensitized society in the face of imminent threats to our culture and way of life. The things that pertain to eternity seem to be losing their edge. We better wake up and it better be soon.
This short chapter focuses solely upon the life of Baruch who was the scribe for Jeremiah. He had been faithful in his ministry towards Jeremiah but God was able to see in his heart that he sought after things for himself. This is so sad and it serves as a warning to each of us. There is a time when we can be faithful in our service to God and yet have hidden unaddressed issues in our hearts. It begins with Baruch looking at his situation unfavourably and placing blame towards God for it. Is this not like the children of Israel when things became difficult for them? They began to challenge God and make complaints instead of focusing on what God had done for them and in how He was meeting their daily needs. This indicates a problem in the heart and it’s clear that Baruch has some of the same issues.
How do we see our day to day walk with God? Are we able to rejoice and stay upbeat in the midst of adversity? Do we have the ability to see God at work in any given situation? This is how the fruit of Meekness is developed; it is the ability to see God at work in any given scenario. Baruch provided a wonderful service to Jeremiah and it sad to see his heart become ill affected. What was the bottom line issue in his heart? Was it a quest for wealth, power or prestige or was it simply discontent because of their situation? The Lord was emphatic in reminding Baruch to not seek after these things but rather learn to be content. He goes on to say that he would break down anything that would be built or established in that land.
It could well be that Baruch was becoming too comfortable in Egypt which in the end would be a violation of the Word of the Lord. Baruch had an esteemed position but he failed in allowing the Word of the Lord that Jeremiah was speaking to get into his own spirit. He not only heard it but he recorded it and yet still failed to make a difference. This was the case with Judas who witnessed the ministry of Christ and heard His teachings but still allowed his heart to be defiled. Baruch was not a Judas but he is one who knew the truth of God’s Word and yet disobeyed it. We have been given a great privilege and opportunity in being able to live in these days. We are accountable and we need to not only hear what God is saying but to respond and do it. Our agenda must be His agenda.
1 John 3
There are many different lessons and examples that we learn from John’s life and ministry. We see him as a father as well as one who walked in intimacy with God. This intimacy resulted in great revelation which was seen during the time of Christ and at the giving of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. There is another attribute that John so wells convey and it is on the subject of love. This is one of the primary themes from chapter 3. John is overwhelmed at the thought of the great love of God, that he would bring us into the position of being called His sons. He makes it clear that we are called as sons already and the time will come when all will see the exceeding riches and kindness that will be shown to all men. He even has eyes to see into the future where those who are called His sons will become like Him at His appearing. John was not the only one who had this revelation it was something King David came to know as well.
Psa 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
The transformation of becoming like Him will be to the degree we have revelation of the Lord. The Shulamite became more like the king as she spent more time with him (Song of Songs). This same principle applies. John would have insight concerning this truth due to the level of intimacy he had with the Lord when he walked the earth. Naturally, there would be qualifications in becoming the sons of God and it centers on the subject of purity. How does one come into this place of being purified? David, who came to know His likeness, provides 5 keys from Psa 51.
1) Acknowledge our transgression (vs 3)
2) Acknowledge that we were born in sin (vs 5)
3) Acknowledge our need for washing (vs 7)
4) Acknowledge need to be purged (vs 7)
5) Acknowledge need for a clean heart.
David had this revelation soon after his sin with Bathsheba. As grievous as David’s transgression was he was able to acknowledge his sin quickly when confronted. This is so important for us as well. The Word of God and the Law of God work together within man to reveal and expose the sin nature. It is here where man can cries out to God to be purged and cleansed from his sin. This purging results in a fresh cry for a new heart. Those have purity of heart are the ones that see God (Math 5:8). The key once again lies in the heart of man. Let us never forget the words of Jeremiah as he came to know the potential of his own heart if left unchecked; seeing it as being deceitfully wicked above all things (Jer 17:9). This is what the Fear of the Lord can do in helping us to stay humble and ever dependent upon His grace and mercy.
John makes very clear in verse 4 that sin is the breaking of the law. The law of God is holy (Rom 7:12) and anyone who commits sin is in violation of the law. Jesus came to earth to uphold and fulfil the law not to destroy it. In the Old Testament, man did not have the ability to keep God’s law, which resulted in their many transgressions. The New Testament reality is that we now have the ability to fulfil the law, to be an expression of the law by way of what Jesus did. If we sin, we can confess it and bring it to Jesus. We now have the ability to seek grace to be empowered to live above the law.
In verse 5 John mentions that Jesus, who knew no sin, actually became sin for our benefit (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus is the Lamb, the spotless Son of God. If we abide in Christ and walk closely with Him, we will not be in sin (John 15:10). If we have a close abiding we cannot sin because sin cannot stand in the presence of a holy God. It is to those who habitually sin without changing that come into the place of not knowing Him. There are times in the life of a believer where there will be struggles over sin related issues. It is critical to make those areas right with God as soon as possible so that the heart does not become hardened and indifferent. The fellowship and intimacy with God can continue under such circumstances. Once again, we see this in the life of David. He loved God but had a moment of great failure. His ability to acknowledge truth and take responsibility helped to preserve him. If he would have shifted blame or not taken responsibility it could have been a whole different story. We need to seek to keep our heart tender at all times even during those times when we fall. This is not to condone such behaviour but to give hope to those who find themselves in times of struggle. A person who is truly righteous will reflect righteousness. There were Gnostics at the time of John who essentially felt that it did not matter what the flesh did. If a person commits sin and lives a life that reflects sin, he then is of the devil (vs 8). On the other hand if a person loves the Truth, does the Truth he then is of God. It is John who gives this powerful contrast in his Gospel. He speaks about knowing the Truth (John 8:32) while at the same time making mention of the Father of lies (John 8:44). John saw this matter clearly and he is conveying it persuasively in this epistle (vs 8).
In verse 9, we see a truth that can prove confusing to many. When we are born again we receive a new nature into our vessel. This nature (Christ) cannot sin so why it is that man still struggles with sin? At salvation the old nature, that knows nothing but sin remains in us. This duality begins to strive one against the other. Which of the two natures will prevail? When Rebecca was about to give birth she had two sons in her womb that were striving. This striving and enmity continues to this day between the seed of Jacob (the promise) and the seed of Esau (old nature). When we sin as believers it is the old nature that is rising up not the nature of Christ. Which of the two natures will we feed? Will we be those who walk in the Spirit as opposed to the flesh? It all will be dependent upon what is within our heart. The spirit man will be fed as we seek to draw closer to the Lord, spend time in His Word in conjunction with prayer and worship. This life will squeeze out the old adamic nature and render him useless. If we seek to delight in the world and its ways the flesh becomes strengthened with the spirit of God becoming suppressed. It all comes down to a choice. To whom will we yield our members (Rom 6:13)?
John then goes on to share concerning brotherly love. Those who have true brotherly love as opposed to those of the superficial variety will experience persecution. This persecution oftentimes stems from within the church itself or from other believers. The example of Cain and Abel is used to illustrate the point. They were brothers but they divided over the level of consecration that they brought to the Lord. Abel’s life, his consecration and offering put Cain to shame. It says of Abel that his offering came by way of faith. Cain’s was more of a conditional offering, an offering presented on his terms. The result was a hatred that stirred in the heart of Cain towards his brother. Those who have a love for truth will come to know the same reality. It hurts when these things occur from the outside world but even more so when it comes from a brother.
The instruction is given that we are to love in deed and truth. It cannot be just by the things we say but must be demonstrated. If we are sensitive to the Lord our heart will serve as an effective gauge as to whether we are loving in accordance to God’s standards. Our heart can serve as the best barometer in every area of our life provided we keep it soft and pliable. John concludes by expressing another gauge of our love for God. It is in the keeping of His commandments. If we keep them we can be assured that he will abide with us. Once again, it all comes down to the heart and to the law and commandments of God. What is the New Covenant? It is the law of God being written and engraved upon our heart. John is only echoing what Moses and many others have stated throughout Biblical history.