Good News To Tell

Good News to Tell
Lesson Passage: Romans 1:1-17
September 4, 2011
Scripture Headings
1. Why We Tell
2. Whom We Tell
3. What We Tell


LIFE GOAL
To help adults tell others about the gospel
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Why We Tell | Romans 1:1-7
1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news—2 which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures—3 concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, 6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling: 7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 1- Paul introduced himself as a slave of Christ Jesus. Slavery was common in the first-century world, as it had been during the Old Testament time. Hebrew law called for fair and kind treatment of Israelite slaves and for their future release. The law also allowed for Israelite slaves who wanted to do so to remain with their masters for life. If any slave made such a free-will choice, the master was then to pierce the slave’s ear as a sign of lifelong service. It was this lifelong freely accepted slavery that best describes Paul’s use of the word slave. The Greek word, slave, points to a bond-servant; someone owned by another, and to whom the slave owed total loyalty.
Paul also was called as an apostle (one who saw and served Christ; and was called by Him). He did not become an apostle by earning the position or by declaring it for himself. His service for God came by Christ’s call on the road to Damascus. God selected him to deliver the gospel to the nations. The message Paul was given to proclaim was God’s good news. At this early point in his letter, Paul simply was pointing out that the message he preached came directly from God. He explained this truth also in his Letter to the Galatians.

Verse 2- Paul continued by explaining the main focus of the gospel he preached. It wasn’t about some new mystery religion like the many ungodly false teachings across the Roman Empire. The gospel had been promised through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Here Paul was making a claim about the entire Old Testament. All the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures, selected by God, stood together as a group in pointing forward to the coming wonderful work of God.

Verses 3-4- Paul was explaining that the gospel wasn’t just one more new secret religion in an already crowded religious field. Neither was it just a program for self-improvement. As Paul pointed out, the gospel from start to finish concerns “Jesus Christ our Lord.” He brought together in these verses a clear description of the facts that proved Jesus was sent by God. He alone could carry out God’s plan of salvation.
First, Paul proved that Jesus was God’s Son. This description shows Jesus is fully God. Next, Paul pointed out that Jesus was a descendant of David as far as His being fully human. Jesus’ carrying out the promises made by God to King David, prove He is the Promised Messiah (God’s sent one).
Finally, Paul declared that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that this one of a kind Person, the God-Man, the Messiah is indeed the powerful Son of God. Jesus’ resurrection was according to the Spirit of holiness, while His birth in the family of King David had been “according to the flesh.” Paul was comparing the fleshly nature of Christ’s humanity (its physical nature, not sinfulness) with His gloriously resurrected body. He is also the central focus of the gospel. Interestingly, Paul also showed in these verses that the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) worked in perfect unity and purpose in bringing the gospel to completion.

Verses 5-6- In these verses, Paul explained further the nature of his mission as an apostle. He had been selected by God to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations. Of course, the work of salvation would be of God, but Paul would be the God-appointed messenger. Nevertheless, we’re reminded that God calls His people to participate in His saving work, a difficult task when we think about it. God’s purposes are always grand and majestic, not small. Jesus commanded His followers to “make disciples of all nations”, and Paul took the Lord’s commission seriously.
Paul had received grace, the undeserved favor of God, which would make possible the seemingly impossible. No doubt Paul also thought of the manner in which he received his calling from the Lord. Paul the apostle viewed his calling as a gracious act of God to a vile sinner (Paul) who formerly had persecuted Christ’s followers.
Paul’s mission was to bring about the obedience of faith. We shouldn’t read into this phrase any intention to force people into becoming Christians. On the other hand, Paul was determined to use all the persuasive powers God had given him to lead Jews and Gentiles to a knowledge of the Savior. He included the Christians of Rome in his circle of care.

Verse 7- Paul then described the people receiving his letter as loved by God. Old Testament prophets had declared God’s love for Israel. In the gospel, God’s saving love was offered to all people—Jew or Gentile—who were called as saints. The root meaning of the word saints is holiness, the idea of being set apart. While holy living is an ongoing growth process for all believers; Paul was reminding his readers that holiness also was something God gave them when they were saved. When they believed in Jesus, God set them apart as holy ones at that moment. God also set them apart for service to Him. Their calling had in effect separated them from the world, and set them on a course to live according to God’s ways.

Whom We Tell | Romans 1:8-15
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about His Son, is my witness that I constantly mention you, 10 always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.

Verse 8- Although Paul had long desired to visit the Christians in Rome, up to this point he hadn’t been able to do so. Nevertheless, he had heard news about their faith. For example, in Corinth, Paul became friends with and worked alongside Aquila and Priscilla. They were a Christian couple who had left Rome. Likely through such friendships, Paul heard numerous stories of how the believers in Rome were doing and what hardships they faced. Paul had determined that the Roman believers were being effective in serving God.

Verses 9-10- Paul told his readers (Romans) that he not only had heard about them but also prayed regularly for them. In doing so he appealed to God as his witness, who could make real the apostle’s deep concern for the church. One of Paul’s ongoing prayer requests was that God would soon grant his desire to travel to Rome and visit with the Christians there.
We can be taught by Paul’s practices in prayer. How regularly do we pray for God to grant us opportunities to tell others about the gospel? What persons or groups are constantly in our thoughts and prayers concerning their faith and struggles? May we be motivated by Paul’s powerful example of prayer!

Verses 11-12- Paul hoped to share some spiritual gift to strengthen the church. We must be careful not to misunderstand what Paul meant by the phrase, give some spiritual gift. In his communication with the Corinthian Christians, he went to great lengths to explain the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts such as wisdom, prophecy, different kinds of languages, and interpretation of those languages. One truth Paul proclaimed boldly in his explanation was that God is the Source of all spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as He desires. Thus Paul did not mean that he wanted to come to Rome and distribute spiritual gifts in the manner only the Spirit can do. Rather, he wanted to share the spiritual ministry God had placed in him, and strengthen the Roman Christians all the more.

Verse 13- Paul had spoken of his desire to visit Rome and now explained the delay concerning his coming in more detail. He didn’t consider the delay in this instance to be the work of Satan slowing his efforts. Rather, he accepted the delay as God’s guidance. God had led him to put considerable time and effort in the regions surrounding the Aegean Sea. He had done this so he could have a positive ministry. Now, however, Paul felt sure that his work in those regions was coming to a close. Thus he now looked forward to pushing farther west in his missionary work, taking the gospel to Rome and beyond.

Verses 14-15- Paul was interested not only in visiting the Christians in Rome to encourage them. He also wanted to preach the good news to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish. He was talking about Gentiles and at this point he did not include the Jews. Later Paul expressed a deep yearning to see Jews also come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Alexander the Great unknowingly spread the Greek language and way of life in Paul’s area of ministry. Then the Roman Empire came to dominate the world, and brought in their way of life. People responded to the Roman government in different ways.

What We Tell | Romans 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Verse 16- Many people in Paul’s day came up with various ideas to capture people’s interest. Some of these ideas or belief systems took seriously the matter of trying to live a so-called pure life. However, the gospel message that Paul preached did not deal with self-improvement through strict self-discipline. Rather, the good news was about putting one’s faith in the God man—Jesus Christ.
Paul was not ashamed to deliver the message of the crucified and resurrected Savior. He preached the gospel to kings and philosophers and beggars and slaves. Some hearers might take a step back to begin with at the scandal of the cross. Others might try to laugh off the message as ridiculous, but Paul knew by experience that the gospel was God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.

Verse 17- Paul stated that God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith. What does this mean? First, it means the gospel reveals not only God’s own righteousness; but also the righteousness He makes available to those who believe in Jesus. God did not and could not simply ignore the reality of human sin. Through Jesus, God took the power and penalty of sin on Himself in our place. Jesus’ death on the cross made forgiveness possible; His resurrection made new life a reality. God thus maintained His righteousness while offering a new righteousness to sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
Second, the phrase from faith to faith has been understood variously: (1) faith given by God to believers; (2) faith that begins and then grows to maturity; or (3) a figure of speech that means by faith from start to finish.

[We as believers today are most blessed because we have completely accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives. Think for a moment about living in today’s world without Christ. It makes me shudder to consider such a life.]
Wayne Clemons, Teacher

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Rely on the Lord’s Love

Rely on the Lord’s Love
Lesson Passages: Lamentations 3:19-33, 37-39
August 28, 2011


SCRIPTURE HEADINGS
1. Expressing Painful Memories
2. Remembering the Lord’s Faithful Love
3. Recognizing the Lord’s Purpose
4. Acknowledging the Lord’s Power

LIFE GOAL
To help adults rely on the Lord’s faithful love in the midst of suffering

[Foreword: The book of Lamentations is about Jeremiah’s sorrow over the fall of Jerusalem. His suffering is real as he loved Jerusalem very much!]
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Expressing Painful Memories | Lamentations 3:19-20
19 Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. 20 I continually remember them and have become depressed.

Verse 19- Even after years of warnings that God’s judgment would come and come strongly; the fact of Judah’s fall was very painful. Jerusalem no longer existed as a city. Only piles of stones and wood marked the locations of its houses and shops. The magnificent temple King Solomon had built was gone. Many lives had been lost.
Jeremiah used four strong words to describe the painful suffering he and the nation had been through. The first was affliction. This Hebrew word means a type of disability or suffering. Sometimes, the suffering was due to a lack of money. Next, Jeremiah used the term homelessness. The people who lived in Jerusalem no longer had houses. The Babylonians had destroyed the buildings. The third term Jeremiah used was wormwood. Wormwood is the name of several nonpoisonous plants that grew throughout the Near East. Because of the very bitter taste of these plants, biblical writers such as Jeremiah, used the term as a word for disaster, sorrow, and cruelty.
Fourth, Jeremiah described the nation’s suffering as poison. This Hebrew word might have been describing a poisonous plant native to the area of Babylon. The meaning of the terms taken together was that the life of the survivors of Jerusalem’s disaster was almost worse than death.

Verse 20 –Jeremiah used the word, remember, to describe people thinking back to what happened in Jerusalem’s destruction. The sights and sounds were burned in the memory of those who were there when it happened. The horrors of the long attack, and the terror the people felt when the enemy finally broke through the city’s defenses, were almost too much to handle. The mental picture of the city’s ruins was sharply different from its former beauty and strength.

Remembering the Lord’s Faithful Love | Lamentations 3:21-26
21 Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!
24 I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.26 It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord.

Verse 21- Remembering the Lord’s faithful love gave Jeremiah hope in the middle of suffering. The Hebrew words, have hope, has the basic sense of waiting, as when Noah waited for the flood waters to go down. It also contains an element of strong hope. Thus the term is similar to the word trust.
Life can never be separated completely from circumstances. Yet, God is a greater reality than any situation. [God is the most important reality in the universe. As Creator He is the Father of all things. Without Him there is no direction or hope.]

Verse 22- Jeremiah felt that the few people left behind was proof of God’s faithful love. God’s love is based on His nature, not on human behavior. Despite the stubborn unfaithfulness of the people, some of them still were alive. Jeremiah’s teaching here describes the deep love of a stronger to a weaker being. It is connected to the Hebrew word for a mother’s womb. This connection can be seen in the normal bond of a mother with her newborn child. Imagine a mother as she lies down to claim a moment’s rest after a hard day. Her rest suddenly gets interrupted by her baby’s cry. What does she do? She automatically rises and goes to the child. She tenderly reaches down and picks up the child. She lovingly cradles the infant in her arms, seeking to comfort her baby. These motherly actions provide a limited, human picture of the mercies of God. God’s capacity to show mercy is unending.

Verse 23- The thoughts of faithful love and mercies in 3:22 began in God’s revelation of Himself to Moses. God’s self-description became central to the covenant people’s understanding of the Lord’s nature. Jeremiah saw that love and mercy are hallmarks of God and apply to every generation and to every circumstance. They are always new and fresh. Jeremiah described God’s faithfulness as great. The Hebrew root word contained the underlying sense of certainty and dependability. It described a hallmark of the Lord’s nature: God never changes. Therefore this trait of God enabled people to know God. Great is a common adjective in the Old Testament. As applied to God’s faithfulness, it means that God’s dependability is enough for every situation His people might face.

Verse 24- The word hope here is the same term used in 3:21. It talks about God’s basic nature. The word, portion, can mean a person’s share of an inheritance. The Lord was the true inheritance of all the covenant people. In time, they would discover that they could worship and serve the Lord wherever they might be.

Verse 25- In the Hebrew text, verses 25-27 all begin with the Hebrew term shown in English as, good. We need to consider this word carefully because the concept good often is important in our understanding. That is, what one person thinks as “good” might not be thought of in the same way by another person. For example, a baseball game might be described as a “good game” by onlookers. Contestants on the winning team probably would agree, but the losing contestants might think they played badly. Jeremiah expressed his faith that eventually God would deliver those left behind; and would reveal His purposes through everything that had happened.

Verse 26- In Scripture, the idea of waiting does not involve doing nothing. The verb wait means hopefully looking forward to something. The person who waits quietly for the Lord has genuine faith in God. Therefore he or she continues to serve the Lord and live according to God’s ways. Regardless of circumstances, the waiting believer is confident that the Lord will act strongly on behalf of His people.

Recognizing the Lord’s Purpose | Lamentations 3:27-33
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is still young.
28 Let him sit alone and be silent, for God has disciplined him.
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust—perhaps there is still hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to the one who would strike him; let him be filled with shame.
31 For the Lord will not reject us forever.32 Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love.33 For He does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.

Verse 27- Let us keep in mind that these sad words originally were written to the survivors of the Lord’s judgment against the nation of Judah. Thus the original readers were people who were suffering as a result of their sins. The word good means staying true to the Lord’s purposes. Jeremiah, who at this time was likely around 60 years old, admitted that youth presented an advantage. The recent tragedy offered the survivors an opportunity to learn from the disaster; and determine to live the rest of their lives faithfully serving the Lord.

Verse 28- Because the Judean survivors’ suffering was a result of divine judgment for sins, the only appropriate action was submission. The suffering was to be endured patiently. Silence was a form of acceptance of God’s will. It also enabled one to think about God’s purposes for what had happened.

Verse 29- Placing one’s mouth in the dust was an act of total submission. The people of Judah’s sinfulness truly had been very large. The people deserved to be totally wiped out. Yet, the Lord’s tender loving nature gave reason for hope. God could restore His people.

Verse 30- Jeremiah continued to talk about a good reaction to God’s punishment of Judah. Allowing the face to be slapped was a sign of total surrender. Jesus would later teach an even stronger submission (turning the other cheek when slapped).The principle established by this teaching is for every Christian. People are wise to humbly accept God’s activity in their lives.

Verse 31- Jeremiah’s deep thoughts on the possibility of divine forgiveness drew him into remembering the Lord’s true nature. This also caused him to reach a hopeful conclusion. The exiles’ being humbled would only be temporary. In His chosen time, the Lord would restore His repentant people to the Holy land.

Verse 32- When Jeremiah wrote this poem, the bitterness of defeat still flooded the survivors’ minds. Battle wounds of veterans still had not healed. Parents still mourned the deaths of children. Orphans were upset and confused by the disappearance of parents. Some survivors felt that God had failed them. Jeremiah was sensitive to their feelings. He understood God’s total power in the disaster. Yet, Jeremiah directed the people to think about God’s desire to heal and forgive. God’s compassion and faithful love were more than sufficient to meet the survivors’ needs.

Verse 33- The false gods of very old lifestyles often were viewed as mean spirited and cruel toward those worshipping them. Our God is different, and Jeremiah reminded the exiles that the Lord God is gracious and loving. Even when His discipline was necessary, the Lord took no pleasure in bringing suffering on mankind. Indeed, God eventually sent His Son, Jesus, to provide a way of salvation from the pain and suffering caused by human sin.

Acknowledging the Lord’s Power | Lamentations 3:37-30
37 Who is there who speaks and it happens, unless the Lord has ordained it?38 Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High? 39 Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?

Verse 37- This verse, stated in the form of a question that doesn’t need an answer, shows the Lord’s total control. Nothing occurs without divine permission. No creature is greater than God.

Verse 38- This verse, also stated in the form of a question, shows the view of a certain point in time. God’s revelation was still incomplete in Jeremiah’s day. The completeness of God’s total power caused people to decide that everything came from the Lord with no other causes. They made no distinction between what God allowed and matters He caused directly.

Verse 39- In Jeremiah’s time, clear revelations about heaven and hell still were in the future. According to the common thinking at the time, God’s judgment was carried out only on earth. Through the New Testament writers, the Lord made known the fact that a final judgment would come that applied to life in eternity. The principle expressed here remains real, whether it applies to judgment in life or after death. God is justified in punishing sin.

[This book saddens the heart of believers today. It shows the tender heart of a great prophet suffering over the fall of Judah; the Lord Jesus’ tribe]

WAYNE CLEMONS, TEACHER

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Recognize The Lord’s Authority

Recognize the Lord’s Authority
Lesson Passages: Jeremiah 50:2-3a, 24-25, 29-32,44b
August 21, 2011


Scripture Headings
1. None Is Invincible (Mighty)
2. Resistance Is Futile (Hopeless)
3. Resistance Is Fatal (Deadly)

LIFE GOAL
To help adults understand their accountability (or responsibility) to the Lord
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None Is Invincible | Jeremiah 50:2-3a
2 Announce to the nations; proclaim and raise up a signal flag; proclaim, and hide nothing. Say: Babylon is captured; Bel is put to shame; Marduk is devastated; her idols are put to shame; her false gods, devastated.
3a For a nation from the north will come against her; it will make her land desolate.

Verse 2-In much of Jeremiah’s time, Babylon ruled the world. No other nation in the world was as powerful as they. When the king of Judah rebelled against Babylonian control, the king of Babylon ordered his army to invade Judah and bring the nation to an end. Jeremiah preached judgment messages against nine surrounding nations and/or people groups.
The longest of these sermons is the one against Babylon. The prophecy concerning Babylon contains a total of 110 verses in English Bible versions, and it was the longest. The length of the judgment sermon against Babylon shows their important role as the Lord’s instrument of discipline against Judah. Politically and militarily, Babylon seemed unbeatable. The ruins of Jerusalem were a painful reminder of Babylonian power. Nations faced a choice between being ruled by Babylon or destroyed.
However, the Lord commanded Jeremiah to announce Babylon’s doom. The Lord held authority over all nations and peoples. By proclaiming God’s message, Jeremiah would contribute to the uprooting of some nations and the building up of others. As Jeremiah preached judgment against the nation of Judah, Babylon rose to power on the stage of world history.
In less than twenty years, the Babylonians conquered the mighty Assyrian Empire. Yet the day would come when the arrogant Babylonian empire would collapse as surely as it arose. So certain was Babylon’s fall that Jeremiah spoke of future events in the past tense, as though they already had occurred. The defeat of Babylon by the Persians would occur in 539 B.C.
Jeremiah’s prophecy first talked about the downfall of the Babylonian gods. Bel was the name of the Babylonian storm god. He was similar to the idol, Baal. The word, idols, literally means “dung pellets.” Jeremiah used the term as a joke about the false Babylonian gods. Days before the city of Babylon’s capture, Belshazzar (the king) attempted to ship out the city’s many idols. They were loaded on beasts of burden, but the number of idols being carried away slowed the caravan of refugees. Persian warriors swept down on the caravan and captured the powerless gods of Babylon.

Verse 3a- Jeremiah had heard the phrase “from the north” in his call from God to ministry. At that time, the Lord revealed to Jeremiah that disaster would come upon the wayward people of Judah from a northerly direction. Because of the lay of the land, invaders of Judah from Babylon would naturally come through Syria and enter the Southern Kingdom from the north.
Here in Jeremiah 50:3a, however, the phrase, nation from the north, refers to an army invading the kingdom of Babylon. This prophecy was fulfilled in the second half of the sixth century B.C. as the Persian army under King Cyrus roared into Babylon from the north. In 539 B.C., the great Babylonian empire crumbled like the many nations it had crushed in earlier times.

Resistance Is Futile | Jeremiah 50:24-25,44b
24 Babylon, I laid a trap for you, and you were caught, but you did not even know it. You were found and captured because you fought against the Lord.25 The Lord opened His armory and brought out His weapons of wrath, because it is a task of the Lord God of Hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
44b Indeed, I will chase Babylon away from her land in a flash. I will appoint whoever is chosen for her. For who is like Me? Who will summon Me? Who is the shepherd who can stand against Me?

Verse 24- The strong word pictures of this passage, pointed out the certainty of Babylon’s doom. Like an animal being surprised by being brought into a trap, the Lord would defeat the Babylon Empire without the people’s even realizing He was doing it. It happened this way: the army of the Persian King Cyrus, redirected the Euphrates River, which flowed through the middle of the city. The lower water level in the riverbed left an opening under the city wall, and the Persian army quietly entered the city. The rulers of Babylon had become so unpopular that the city’s citizens welcomed the Persian invaders as liberators. Resistance by the Babylonian army was weak and flimsy. As Persian troops poured into Babylon’s streets, the Babylonian leaders were in a drunken celebration. By the next day’s dawning, Jeremiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s collapse had been fulfilled. [God took down a powerful nation overnight]

Verse 25- The title, Lord God of Hosts, points out God’s total control over all nations, including His authority over the nations’ armies. The word, Lord, showed one who is a master or a member of royalty. The term God in this title actually is a translation of the name Yahweh. It gave us the personal name of Israel’s covenant God, first revealed to Moses at the burning bush. The name Yahweh pointed to God as the Creator of all things, and the One who carries along His covenant people. The term Hosts was a military term referring to a very big army. The term, wrath, points basically to an expression of strongly standing against something or somebody.
The Hebrew noun “wrath” occurs 22 times in the Old Testament, often to describe God’s response to human sin. Although Babylon had unknowingly served as the Lord’s tool of punishment against His wayward people, the Babylonians themselves were filled with arrogance, and wickedness. In His stand against Babylon, therefore, the Lord would one day use every weapon He had to bring down the empire. The phrase, land of the Chaldeans, was another word for Babylon.

Verse 44b- When it unfolded, the Lord’s judgment against Babylon would be swift, certain, and complete. He would select a new ruler to replace Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty. The new king would not even be a Babylonian! As the All powerful Creator of the universe and Ruler of history, the Lord would appoint world rulers of His choosing. No one could call the Lord to account or stand against His will. The Lord was (and is) complete ruler over all.

Resistance Is Fatal | Jeremiah 50:29-32
29 Summon the archers to Babylon, all who string the bow; camp all around her; let none escape. Repay her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do the same to her, for she has acted arrogantly against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore, her young men will fall in her public squares; all the warriors will perish in that day.
This is the Lord’s declaration. 31 Look, I am against you, you arrogant one—this is the declaration of the Lord God of Hosts—because your day has come, the time when I will punish you. 32 The arrogant will stumble and fall with no one to pick him up. I will set fire to his cities, and it will consume everything around him.”

Verse 29 -The sin of deliberately standing against the Lord finally brought Babylon to ruin. Much warfare in the ancient world was hand-to-hand combat, hacking at one’s enemy with a sword or lunging with a spear. One weapon that could be used at a distance was the bow and arrow. Its long-range capability made it a better weapon for destroying enemy units attempting to escape the battlefield. The Lord would bring together enough archers (soldiers armed with bows and arrows) so that none of His enemies would escape. His fighters would surround the army of Babylon, providing no way of escape.
The Lord’s command to “repay her according to her deeds” shows the justice of Babylon’s fate. The Lord was not mean spirited. Rather, the Babylonians earned their punishment. What would be done to them was exactly what they had previously done to many nations. Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar had swept across the ancient Near East burning villages and taking away entire populations. By the time that the Book of Jeremiah was completed, Jerusalem was in ruins. A pile of burnt trash marked the site of the once-magnificent temple of the Lord. For Babylon to experience a similar fate was justified.
The Holy One’s (God’s) connection to the name Israel reminded Jeremiah’s readers of the covenant relationship between God and His people. The name Israel was first given to Jacob to mark his changed relationship with God. It later came to be known as the 12 tribes of people descended from Jacob. In Jeremiah’s time, the name Israel served to remind the citizens of Judah that they were members of God’s covenant people. Their failure to accept the words of the covenant was the reason God had called Babylon to punish Judah. However, the Babylonians went too far as an instrument of divine punishment and acted with selfish destruction.

Verse 30- The streets of Babylon one day would be filled with the corpses of young men. This was (and is) an all-too-common result of warfare. In every war, young people generally are at the front lines of combat. Entire generations have been wiped out by the slaughter of battle. This was especially true in the brutality of the ancient world. The victors often did not take prisoners; as captured soldiers were quickly executed. Here, the sense of the prediction of Jeremiah’s prophecy was that Babylon had no hope. The history of the empire and its capital city would come to a close. All of this would happen because the Lord directed it.

Verse 31- The Hebrew word, Look, in this verse is placed here by God and appears over a thousand times in the Old Testament. It points out the important nature of something that demands attention. In this case, that which demanded Babylon’s attention was a statement of the Lord’s determined stand against Babylon. (“I am against you.”) Once more Jeremiah used the title of the Lord God of Hosts to show God’s absolute control.
The phrase “your day has come” sounds as though Jeremiah wrote this prophecy around 539 B.C. That was the year the Persian army captured the city of Babylon, and ended the Babylonian empire. However, Jeremiah’s use of the past tense here is probably better understood as the prophetic method of describing a future event as though it already had happened. This approach was the prophet’s way of showing the certainty of the Lord’s promises. Because the Lord had spoken it, the revealed event was guaranteed to happen.

Verse 32- Babylon was described as arrogant (puffed up with pride). This is a Hebrew term showing a sense of too much self-importance. The Babylonians thought that their empire was secure and powerful enough that no enemy could conquer them. However, their puffed up pride was nothing more than rebellion against the Lord’s absolute control over His creation. This rebellion was a decision of the Babylonians. Proud Babylon would eventually stumble and fall.
The word, stumble, pictures a person whose physical strength has been used up. The individual staggers and goes down from weakness or weariness. The word, fall, indicates being cast down or becoming flat on the ground. The one who thought they had the power of self-determination for the future; lacked the force even to stand up in the present. The burning of cities and fields was a typical thing in ancient warfare. Here the physical destruction suggested the complete downfall of Babylon.

[It is essential for believers today to understand God’s power. He does whatever He wants to do. We can pray to Him, but other than that privilege earned by the shed blood of Christ, we have no input or control whatsoever in His carrying out His will. That is why God loves a submissive heart.]

WAYNE CLEMONS, TEACHER

Duplicated and used by permission, Lifeway
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Follow Orders

Follow Orders
Lesson Passages: Jeremiah 42:1-3,5-6,9-10,19-22; 43:2
August 14, 2011

Scripture Headings


1. Seeking the Lord’s Guidance in a Panic
2. Receiving an Unpopular Response
3. Warning about Fooling Yourself
4. Rejecting the Lord’s Guidance

LIFE GOAL
To help adults follow the Lord’s guidance
———————————————————————————————————————-
Seeking the Lord’s Guidance in a Panic | Jeremiah 42:1-3,5-6
1 Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached 2 Jeremiah the prophet and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us re-main out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), 3 that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5 And they said to Jeremiah, “As for every word the Lord your God sends you to tell us, if we don’t act accordingly, may the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us. 6 Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you so that it may go well with us. We will certainly obey the voice of the Lord our God!”

Verses 1-2- Among those who were left in Judah after most citizens were taken into Babylonian exile, were small bands of rebel fighters who were not captured by the Babylonians. Although these groups were not a threat to their Babylonian enemies, they were organized and probably had weapons. The commanders of the previous Jewish army were leaders of these bands. They seemed to have some political influence over the scattered Jewish survivors.
Johanan, son of Kareah, appears to have been a leader of leaders among the fighters. He and another military leader, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, controlled the leadership that was left in Judah. These leaders already were in the process of organizing an escape into Egypt when they, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached Jeremiah asking the prophet to pray to the Lord for them. Since Jeremiah was not popular and the people had not been listening to him; the prophet had every reason to question their sincerity.
To say the least, however, times had changed! The Lord’s judgment on His people had happened exactly as Jeremiah said it would. Therefore, it is possible that the somewhat humbled people wanted Jeremiah’s input about the plan to go to Egypt. The people were in a fearful situation. The spoken words, “may our petition come before you,” takes place elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah. The refugees were having some degree of panic as to what they should do next. They were a small, scared, confused band of survivors. They needed the Lord’s guidance. [Sadly this occurs in today’s world. People only call on God when they are desperate.]

Verse 3-The meaning of the phrase, the Lord your God, is unclear. Did the people believe that because of their long history of unfaithfulness, followed by the Lord’s judgment, that the covenant now was broken? Or were they simply thinking that God would listen to Jeremiah, but would not listen to them. Whatever the case, they respected the prophet’s standing with God and wanted Jeremiah to get the Lord’s guidance.
The group used the term, walk, to ask about what they should do. The term is used a number of times in the Scriptures to refer to a way of living—in other words, how they should live. Here, however, the figure of speech appears to seek advice about a particular situation, which was fleeing to Egypt.

Verse 5- When Jeremiah indicated his willingness to pray about the situation, the people called on the Lord to be their witness. A witness was someone who had firsthand knowledge about a case, and who therefore could testify in court. The people were asking God to be their witness. The people could count on the Lord to be a true and faithful witness against them if they failed to keep their word.

Verse 6- The phrase whether it is pleasant or unpleasant indicates the people’s obedience would not be dependent on their personal feelings. The serious nature of the people’s vow might show the degree of panic they felt. Perhaps the vow also showed a high confidence that the Lord would put His stamp of approval on what they already had decided to do.

Receiving an Unpopular Response | Jeremiah 42:9-10
9 He said to them, “This is what the Lord says, the God of Israel to whom you sent me to bring your petition before Him: 10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will rebuild and not demolish you, and I will plant and not uproot you, because I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought on you.

Verse 9.-The Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s prayer came after 10 days. This was a long wait for people in a panic, but enough time for Jeremiah to be sure he didn’t confuse his opinion with the Lord’s will. The answer Jeremiah delivered came from Godly revelation, not from personal desires. However, it wasn’t the answer that the people wanted to hear.

Verse 10- The words in this verse remind us of the language the Lord used some 40 years before to prepare Jeremiah for his ministry as a prophet. The Lord’s response must have stirred up deep feelings in Jeremiah. For over four decades the prophet had witnessed the Lord’s power and faithfulness in bringing about His declared purposes.
The Lord had uprooted and torn down the mighty Assyrian and Egyptian empires; while lifting up the Babylonian empire to become the instrument of Godly discipline against His covenant people. He had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.; and had demolished the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C. Nothing the Lord had revealed to His prophets had failed to happen.
Thus Jeremiah confidently declared that the Lord wanted the survivors to remain in the Holy land. If the people obeyed Him, the Lord would rebuild them and firmly plant them there as His people. The Lord’s statement, “I let up concerning the disaster,” doesn’t mean the Lord had made a mistake in bringing judgment on His people. Rather, it means the time of Godly wrath was over and the time for divine compassion had come.

Warning About Self-Deception | Jeremiah 42:19-22
19 The Lord has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah: ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Know for certain that I have warned you today! 20 You have led your own selves astray because you are the ones who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray to the Lord our God on our behalf, and as for all that the Lord our God says, tell it to us, and we’ll act accordingly.’ 21 For I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in everything He has sent me to tell you. 22 Now therefore, know for certain that by the sword, famine, and plague you will die in the place where you desired to go to live for a while.”

Verse 19 -The Lord spoke concerning the survivors who approached Jeremiah as a remnant of Judah. The Hebrew word remnant refers to that which has been left after a cleaning out. In the Old Testament and particularly in prophetic preaching, the term was used for those who survived the disaster of judgment and were drawn by it to repent. Thus the Lord would look for a remnant to return to Him and to be renewed as the covenant people.
The Lord was clear in His response to the people’s request for guidance: “Don’t go to Egypt.” Fleeing to Egypt was nothing more than another example of the people trusting more in human politics than in the Lord’s protection and blessing. Egypt already had proven to be powerless against the Babylonian army. The statement “I have warned you” indicates the dangerous nature of the plan to flee to Egypt.
The people thought that by going there they would escape further war and would no longer have to live in fear and famine. The Lord warned that the people were dead wrong in these thoughts. Moreover, their flight into Egypt would be disobedience of the same high-handed type as was practiced by the citizens of Jerusalem now dead or living in exile in Babylon.

Verses 20-21- Even if the people had been sincere to begin with in their request for God’s guidance, they now were acting foolishly. They were going in the opposite direction from the Lord. They had asked Jeremiah to pray and had vowed to obey whatever the Lord gave in answer. The prophet could see already that the people were unwilling to trust the Lord. They had fooled themselves into thinking they knew better than the Lord what was best for their future. In reality, they were walking into a death trap of their own making.

Verse 22- The survivors decided to flee to Egypt partly because they were afraid of Babylonian revenge for their previously murdering a Babylonian official. However, their reasoning was bad. They mistakenly thought that Egypt was safe from Babylonian invasion, but by relocating to Egypt the entire population rebelled against the Lord. They thought they would go there to live for a while, but they would die there instead.

Rejecting the Lord’s Guidance (Jer. 43:2)
2 then Azariah son of Hoshaiah, Johanan son of Kareah, and all the other arrogant men responded to Jeremiah, “You are speaking a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to live there for a while!’

Verse 2- The leaders of the small group of Jewish rebels arrogantly rejected the Lord’s guidance. Azariah son of Hoshaiah spoke for the group. Possibly Azariah is another name for the same individual called “Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah” in 42:1. Another possibility is that Jezaniah and Azariah were brothers. Whatever the case, Azariah represented at least the majority of all the other arrogant men and, probably the opinion of the entire group of survivors.

[Throughout the Bible we read about people disobeying the Lord’s commands. The same thing is true today. Many people do not read the Bible, and they don’t understand how God deals with human sin. Every person created by God, and that is all of us, has a choice to obey God’s word or to disobey it. We can choose blessing or punishment. God loves us enough to give us a choice. We should love Him enough to obey Him.]
WAYNE CLEMONS, TEACHER

©2011 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention 2011.
Reproduction or redistribution is prohibited without the express written consent of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention

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Stay True

Stay True
Lesson Passages: Jeremiah 35:1-2,5-8a,18-19
August 7, 2011


SCRIPTURE HEADINGS
1. Example of Faithfulness
2. Example of Unfaithfulness
3. Outcomes of Unfaithfulness
4. Rewards of Faithfulness

LIFE GOAL
To help adults remain faithful to the Lord
———————————————————————————————————————-
Example of Faithfulness | Jeremiah 35:1-2,5-8a
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah: 2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them to one of the chambers of the temple of the Lord to offer them a drink of wine.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5 I set jars filled with wine and some cups before the sons of the house of the Rechabites and said to them, “Drink wine!”
6 But they replied, “We do not drink wine, for Jonadab, son of our ancestor Rechab, commanded: ‘You and your sons must never drink wine. 7 You must not build a house or sow seed or plant a vineyard. Those things are not for you. Rather, you must live in tents your whole life, so you may live a long time on the soil where you stay as a temporary resident.’ 8a We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab, son of our ancestor Rechab, in all he commanded us.

Verse 1- This verse has two thoughts. First the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord points out that the Lord started Jeremiah’s action in this situation. Jeremiah’s actions and the message they gave came from God. So this verse cannot be seen as just words made up to get attention. Rather, it was a genuine display of the meaning of faithfulness. Second, the phrase, in the days of Jehoiakim, shows that this event happened during a time of spiritual rebellion. Also during a time of political rebellion when the king of Judah revolted against Babylonian control.

Verse 2- The Rechabites were members of a religious group who traced their history to a man named Jonadab. A son of Rechab, Jonadab (also known as Jehonadab) was best remembered for his standing against Baal worship during the kingship of King Jehu in Israel. One interesting item about the Rechabites was their love of living in tents and being against settled living. They liked to move around. They also did not drink wine. Jonadab’s instructions about simple daily life were meant to help guard his family against ever becoming involved in the ungodly worship of Baal. Generations of Rechabites had closely followed their ancestor’s instructions for over two hundred years.

On first glance, it might seem odd that the Lord would direct his prophet to assemble the Rechabites in one of the chambers of the temple … to offer them a drink of wine. However, the Lord knew how the group would respond; His goal was to publicly show the nature of full time devotion. By holding the demonstration at the temple, Jeremiah would shine a bright light on the unfaithfulness of God’s people in front of a large number of witnesses.

Some might wonder why the Rechabites were in Jerusalem given the fact that they avoided settled living. They had looked for safety inside Jerusalem’s strong walls during the dangerous times of the Babylonian invasion. The phrase, house of the Rechabites, in 35:2 could easily mean family or clan rather than to speak about a building in which the group was living. Their gathering in the temple because of the prophet’s call no doubt caused curiosity among the people, and drew a crowd of onlookers. It is uncertain, however, whether the chamber room selected for the meeting was open to the public. At the least, some of the important temple officials saw what was happening.

Verses 5-6- As instructed by the Lord, Jeremiah set wine and some cups in front of the Rechabites, and then commanded the group to drink. The words “Drink wine” is an order, suggesting that Jeremiah wasn’t simply showing hospitality, but was putting the group to a test. Would they stick by their old ways or would they consider their present situation as a reason to “bend the rules?”
The Rechabites’ response was immediate and strong: “We do not drink wine!” Their faithfulness to live according to the commands of their ancestor did not bend just because the times were difficult; or a prophet had asked them to break their long-held family covenant.
What was behind the Rechabites’ strict stand against drinking wine? Wine and wine-drinking was common in the ungodly nature of Canaanite religion in general, and especially in Baal worship. Rituals in Baal worship included mass drinking of alcoholic wine, which in turn led to acts of sexual sin committed under the “smoke screen” of religious devotion. On full display in the places of worship were carved idols of Baal and other Canaanite gods. Jonadab thus did not allow his family and descendants to have any connection to a practice so closely linked with idolatry.

Verse 7- Moreover, Jonadab was against a settled way of life like farming in favor of the tent-based way of living. The Rechabites were to be hunter-gatherers and shepherds, not growers. The phrase, you must not, in the Hebrew carries the sense of “don’t ever do.” Thus Jonadab made his descendants turn down the settled way of life and live in tents all their lives.
The difference between these two ways of life can be seen in human history as early as Cain and Abel (Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd). In Israelite history, the period of the people’s wandering in the wilderness—although much of it was in punishment for disobeying the Lord—sometimes was thought of as a time of faith-building. By comparison, the Jews settled life in the Holy land too often was identified by spiritual unfaithfulness, idolatry, and wickedness.
Jonadab also gave an unusual blessing to his followers if they obeyed his command: they would live a long time in the land in which they lived as a temporary resident. The promise of living a long time in the land was like a similar promise God made in the Fifth Commandment to children who honored their parents. However, to live as a temporary resident meant that the Rechabites knew they would need to be happy living on the edges of their society. They would be blessed if they didn’t fit in with a culture that continually dishonored the Lord.

Verse 8a- The Rechabites testified to Jeremiah that they had always obeyed the voice of Jonadab, their ancestor. They weren’t showing self-righteous pride; they simply declared their decision to stay true to their faith as Rechabites. As the Lord knew and as Jeremiah probably knew, the Rechabites proved faithful. Their act of obedience was clearly shown to be very different from the disobedience of the people of Judah to the commands of the living God.

Example of Unfaithfulness | Jeremiah 35:12-14
12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: Go, say to the men of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem: Will you not accept discipline by listening to My words?”— this is the Lord’s declaration. 14 “The words of of Jonadab, son of Rechab, have been carried out. He commanded his sons not to drink wine, and they have not drunk to this very day because they have obeyed their ancestor’s command. But I have spoken to you time and time again, and you have not obeyed Me!

Verse 12- These verses make clear that Jeremiah was not necessarily speaking out for the Rechabite way of life. Rather, he was showing the Rechabites’ loyalty to their ancestor to point out the complete disloyalty of God’s people to their Master (God).
As happened with Jeremiah’s earlier visit to the potter’s house, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the form of an “everyday” event. As the prophet acted step-by-step in obedience to the Lord’s commands, God revealed more of His instructions and message to His spokesman.

Verse 13- The double title, the Lord of Hosts and the God of Israel, appears over 30 times in the Book of Jeremiah alone. The first part, Lord of Hosts, points out God’s absolute control over all creation. The second part, God of Israel, identifies God’s covenant relationship with His people. Taken together, the two parts of the title indicate that Jeremiah’s words were both real and powerful. Jeremiah spoke with God’s authority. The Rechabites stayed true to a handed-down tradition from their long-dead ancestor. How much more should God’s covenant people seek a fresh prophetic word from their All powerful Lord!
The Lord set forth a question not requiring an answer from His people: “Will you not accept discipline by listening to My words?” The meaning of the phrase, accept discipline, is to take correction so as to learn a lesson. The Lord wanted to know if His people were willing to learn from the Rechabites’ example. The word listening adds the idea of acting on the lesson the Lord was trying to teach them. Sadly, the wording of the question indicates the Lord knew His people would not respond as they should.

Consequences of Unfaithfulness | Jeremiah 35:17a
17a Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I will certainly bring to Judah and to all the residents of Jeru-salem all the disaster I have pronounced against them because I have spoken to them, but they have not obeyed, and I have called to them, but they would not answer.”

Verse 17a- Jeremiah declared to the people of Judah the outcomes that had been decided by the All Powerful Lord. The phrase “I will certainly” is powerful in the Hebrew; and indicates that the opportunity for escaping Godly judgment had passed. Citizens throughout the nation and especially in the capital city would suffer the disaster the Lord had spoken.
Although the details of God’s judgment are not shown in this verse, Jeremiah had declared them at other times. Judah would fall; Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the broken people would be taken into captivity. All the outcomes would be a result of the people’s stubborn unfaithfulness. “I have called to them,” the Lord declared, “but they would not answer.

Rewards of Faithfulness | Jeremiah 35:18-19
18 Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites: “This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: ‘Because you have obeyed the command of your ancestor Jonadab and have kept all his commands and have done all that he commanded you, 19 this is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: Jonadab son of Rechab will never fail to have a man to always stand before Me.’ ”

Verse 18- Jeremiah revealed that the Lord had a message of praise for the house of the Rechabites. That praise came in the form of a godly blessing for their long lasting obedience to an ancestor’s commands. It was a remarkable example of each individual’s faithfulness leading to group faithfulness. It also was an example of faithfulness in “a few things” leading to being rewarded with even greater spiritual responsibilities and blessings.

Verse 19- The All powerful Lord who spoke immediate disaster on His rebellious covenant people could also pronounce an enduring blessing for one faithful family in the middle of disaster. Jonadab would never fail to have a man to always stand before the Lord. In Scripture, the phrase “stand before” often carries the sense of priestly service. However, there is no biblical evidence that the Rechabites later became priests or prophets. The more likely meaning of the blessing in this case was that the family would survive the coming judgment on the nation. We do have biblical evidence of that blessing. Nehemiah 3:14 mentions one “Malchijah son of Rechab” living about 150 years later and serving the Lord in the restored community of Jerusalem.

[This accurate evidence spanning 150 years strengthens my faith. God’s word is true and accurate. We can trust it’s accuracy from Genesis to Revelation.]

Wayne Clemons, Teacher

Duplicated and used by permission (Lifeway)

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Check Your Direction

Check Your Direction
Lesson Passage: Jeremiah 31:27-34
July 31, 2011


SCRIPTURE HEADINGS
1. Promise of New Life
2. Individual Responsibility for Sin
3. A changed Heart
4. Personal Relationship with the Lord

LIFE GOAL
To help adults enter into and live in a personal relationship with the Lord

Promise of New Life | Jeremiah 31:27-28
27 “The days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and to tear them down, to demolish and to destroy, and to cause disaster, so will I be attentive to build and to plant them,” says the Lord.

Verse 27- Jeremiah received at least some of his prophecies of hope through dreams. His description of awaking after a “most pleasant” sleep must have been refreshing, since most of the prophetic revelations Jeremiah received and spoke were scary—if not terrifying—announcements of disaster. However, Jeremiah’s messages of hope had to do with the future and with what God would do. The prophet’s warnings and calls for the people to change their ways were ignored year after year.
The only hope for a better future for the covenant people rested in God alone. The phrase, days are coming, pointed to the future in two ways. First, it pointed to a future that included the Jews moving back to the Holy land. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah were included. Second, it pointed to more distant and even greater fulfillment of God’s promises in the messianic age (also known as the Millennium). God did not specify the exact time the Millennium would appear; instead He described what the coming age would be like.
In terms of the return of the covenant people to the Holy land, the Lord promised that He would one day replant the seed of man and the seed of beast. Repeated invasions, battles, and deportations had cut back the populations in both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom had been destroyed as an operating government by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The Southern Kingdom with its capital and temple at Jerusalem would suffer a similar destruction in 587 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians. Extended warfare brought other very bad outcomes, including disease, starvation, and poverty. What crops and livestock were not taken as military provisions quickly were lost by other means and never replaced. When the Lord restored the Holy land, however, He would resupply it with both people and animals.

Verse 28- The Lord offered the people of Judah the promise of getting back everything they had lost in the painful reality of judgment. He described His total control over the circumstances of His people. In powerful words, the Lord assumed responsibility for the complete destruction caused by the Babylonians. The Lord insisted that He alone controlled everything that had happened in His punishment of the Jews.
However, His description of the destruction looked forward to the certainty of better times and that Jeremiah’s preaching proved God had called him. Four of the five negative verbs of judgment (uproot, tear … down, demolish, destroy) and the two positive verbs of replacing (build, plant) are the same as those shown in Jeremiah 1:10. The exiles could find hope in the fact that just as the terrible judgments on Israel and Judah had happened as Jeremiah prophesied. The Lord would also bring about better times in the future.

Individual Responsibility for Sin | Jeremiah 31:29-30
29 “In those days, it will never again be said:
The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. 30 Rather, each will die for his own wrong-
doing. Anyone who eats sour grapes—his own teeth will be set on edge.

Verse 29- Many of the exiles evidently were bitter about what had happened to them. Rather than admit their guilt and God’s justice in punishing them for their sins, the people complained they had been mistreated. They blamed earlier generations for their present state. They quoted a popular proverb about “sour grapes” to express their bitterness. The application of the proverb was that they were forced to endure the outcomes of someone else’s sins.
By repeating the proverb, the exiles were refusing to accept any responsibility for their present situation. The process of divine discipline, followed by restoration, would result in the people’s recognition that saying the words” sour grapes” was not a good way to describe their condition. In the future, God’s people would never again use the proverb about “sour grapes” as an excuse.

Verse 30- In the coming time of restoration as well as in the future messianic age (thousand year rule of Christ), people would understand and accept the principle of personal responsibility before God. The declaration that each will die for his own wrongdoing is an understanding that we all stand responsible before God for our sins, but He does not and will not hold anyone accountable for another’s sins. The Lord reminded Jeremiah that human sin was serious. The Hebrew word translated wrongdoing is based on a verb that means “to twist.”
The exiles’ unfaithful attitudes and actions had twisted the terms of the covenant. Now they were faced with the bad outcomes of their sins. Many of their fellow citizens indeed had died because of the Babylonian invasions of Judah. Others among the exiles would die in captivity and never experience the restoration. All the people, however, experienced the loss and brokenness of fellowship with their God that resulted from disobedience. All needed to admit their guilt.

Transformation of the Heart | Jeremiah 31:31-33
31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

Verse 31- The seed of the new covenant was planted in the return of God’s people to the Holy land after their exile. In this passage, however, the phrase “days are coming” points further beyond that restoration to the future messianic age or millennium. God promised that in the future He would make a new covenant. The Hebrew word that means covenant first appears in Scripture in the account of Noah. However, the word came to be used in many cultures and kingdoms throughout the ancient world in addition to the Israelite culture.
A covenant was the same as a legal contract or treaty in the ancient world. It was used in a scriptural manner to describe the basis of God’s relationship with Abraham and his descendants. While the blessings of that covenant included title to the Holy land for the house of Israel and … the house of Judah, the heart of the covenant was faith-based and far-reaching: Abraham and his descendants would trust in and be devoted to the Lord alone and the Lord would claim all such believers as His people. References to the new covenant in the New Testament point out that Jeremiah’s prophecy found its ultimate fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ.
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples. As He took up the cup to share the drink with them, Jesus declared that the cup represented the new covenant established in His blood—that is, in His sacrificial death on the cross. The apostle Paul quoted Jesus’ words from that night when he instructed the Corinthian believers on observing the Lord’s Supper with the proper spirit. The writer of Hebrews quoted Jeremiah’s entire new covenant passage to show that its final fulfillment in Jesus was God’s intent from the beginning.

Verse 32- Even in Jeremiah’s declaration, the Lord indicated that the new covenant would not be like the covenant He had made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. To be sure, the covenant made in Moses’ time was a redemptive covenant. It was based on the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. That covenant—based on the foundation of God’s revealed Commandments—established the Israelites as God’s “own possession,” a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation.” The problem was, however, that the Israelites constantly and willfully broke the Commandments. Furthermore, their stubborn unfaithfulness flew in the face of the Lord’s amazing grace in claiming them as His “bride” (I had married them).

Verse 33- Therefore, the new covenant would have a different foundation and be of a different nature than the old covenant. The foundational Commandments of the old covenant had been inscribed on stone tablets and kept safe inside the ark. Not only had the covenant people constantly ignored the Commandments throughout their history. The fact also remains that the ark with its contents eventually would be lost in the middle of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.
The new covenant’s basis would involve bringing God’s ways into their hearts. Rather than engraving the law on stone tablets yet again, the Lord would inscribe His teaching within them … on their hearts. The new relationship would be based on changed hearts. Living with the exiles in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel repeated Jeremiah’s prophecy on restoration as internal change rather than external reform. Through Ezekiel, the Lord declared to His exiled people: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.”

Personal Relationship with the Lord | Jeremiah 31:34
34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: Know the Lord, for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

Verse 34- This verse describes two of the most amazing features of the new covenant: universal knowledge of God and everlasting forgiveness of sin. Both are features that the Lord must start and provide; human beings can attain them only by faith. The phrase, no longer will one teach, shouldn’t be understood to mean that the new covenant eliminates the need for spiritual instruction by parents, pastor-teachers, or Christian witnesses.
After all, the Great Commission directs Christ-followers to make disciples and teach them to keep Christ’s teachings. Rather, the phrase indicates that the new covenant relationship with God will be a matter of personally knowing Him, not just hearing about Him from others. The Hebrew word translated, know, refers to a right relationship with God by faith.
Such a relationship cannot be brought about through a priest, by family members, or by one’s birth into a certain race. The amazing claim “they will all know Me” refers not to the salvation of all human beings, but to the universal way of salvation: through faith in Jesus Christ. People from the least to the greatest will stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. The new covenant is available to everyone.
In the new covenant, the Lord provides not only the way to know Him but also the way to relate rightly to Him. The result of sin is a broken relationship with God. The old covenant pointed out what sin is, but was powerless to overcome its hold on people. But in the new covenant, God amazingly declared: “I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin!” The word, forgive, means to pardon in the sense of lifting up or taking away the charges against someone.

[These wonderful words of God are so uplifting that they fill our hearts with unspeakable joy. As this lesson developed, these heavenly words gave a sense of privilege in my heart. It is a great feeling to understand the power of God’s Word.]
WAYNE CLEMONS, TEACHER

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Settle Down

Settle Down
Lesson Passages: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
July 24, 2011


Scripture Headings
1. Stay normal in a New Situation
2. Don’t accept Unrealistic Dreams
3. Remember the Lord Is in Control

LIFE GOAL
To help adults make the most of unpleasant experiences

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Reestablish Normalcy in Your New Situation | Jeremiah 29:1,4-7
1 This is the text of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exiles, the priests, the prophets, and all the people Nebuchadnezzar had deported from Jerusalem to Babylon.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4 This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. 7 Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.”

Verse 1- Jeremiah lived to see three occasions when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, invaded Judah with his army and took captives back to Babylon. (1) In 605 B.C., following the Babylonians’ defeat of the Assyrians at Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar led his troops into Judah. He took over various cities, and took captive to Babylon a number of young men from noble families, among whom were Daniel and his friends. (2) In 597 B.C., Jehoiakim revolted against Babylonian control, causing Nebuchadnezzar to invade Judah a second time.
Jehoiakim didn’t live to witness the disaster, but his son and successor, Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah or simply Coniah), ruled only three months before surrendering Jerusalem to the Babylonian king. Jehoiakim and his family were taken into exile along with thousands of Judah’s leading citizens (among whom was likely the prophet Ezekiel). The city of Jerusalem was damaged but not destroyed. (3) The third, and last Babylonian invasion occurred in 587 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar responded to Zedekiah’s revolt by destroying the city of Jerusalem, burning its great buildings (including the temple) to the ground and ripping down its wall. All survivors except a few of the poorest peasants were taken to Babylon as captives.
The letter that Jeremiah wrote to the rest of the elders of the exiles in Babylon was sent during the time of Zedekiah. These were captives who had been in exile for some time; but also had been hearing reports that their captivity would not last long. False prophets in both Jerusalem and Babylon talked up this possibility. However, Jeremiah didn’t accept this view. He wrote the letter to remind the exiles of the Lord’s purposes in sending them into a long period of captivity. They needed to settle down, submit to the Lord’s punishment, and establish as normal a life as possible in their new surroundings.

Verse 4- Jeremiah reminded the exiles that while the letter was from him, the message was from the Lord of Hosts (God). The word Lord indicates the Hebrew name Yahweh, God’s covenant name. Jeremiah was reminding the exiles that although they had been taken by force into another country, they still were members of the covenant people. God still had a plan for them, and the judgment they were going through was part of that plan. Jeremiah further explained the exiles’ continuing covenant relationship by referring to the Lord as the God of Israel
God claimed responsibility for the terrible events that the exiles had experienced. He identified them as the exiles I (God) deported from Jerusalem to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s army was the human instrument the Lord used to bring His judgment to pass. By letting the exiles know that what happened to them was according to God’s complete authority, they could be satisfied that He controlled events to come as well. If God could control events that ended Judah’s existence as a nation, He also could control events to restore the exiles to the Holy land.

Verses 5-6- Until that Godly appointed time, however, the exiles would do well to reestablish “normal” lives as much as possible. Several types of actions would demonstrate that the exiles had accepted the Lord’s discipline and were prepared to trust Him for their future. First, they were to build houses and live in them. This action would show that the exiles realized their time in Babylon would last for generations, not just for a couple of years.
Second, the exiles were to plant gardens and eat their produce. Planting and harvesting a crop takes time and effort, but these actions also demonstrate a grateful trust in God to provide the growth and fruitfulness. While these exiles were forbidden from returning to Judah, they evidently enjoyed a degree of freedom in Babylon to establish their own settlements and communities.
Third, the exiles needed to reestablish family life. They were to marry and have children; then when their children came of age, the parents were to give their children in marriage too. In other words, God gave the exiles the command He had given to the first family in the Garden of Eden: multiply. Families and family life centered in the Lord were to increase, not decrease, even though the exiles lived far away from their familiar culture and surroundings.

Verse 7- Beyond commanding the exiles to reestablish family and community life as covenant people, God asked them to take an additional, surprising action. They were to seek and pray for the welfare of Babylon, the place of their captivity. This verse represents the only time in the Old Testament where God’s people are commanded to pray for their enemies and to treat them kindly. This is also a command made clear in the New Testament for Christ followers. God’s command for the exiles to pray for their enemy and to seek Babylon’s welfare was practical although not easy to practice. It was practical in the sense that as Babylon prospered, so too would the exiles prosper.

Reject Unrealistic Dreams | Jeremiah 29:8-9
8 For this is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, 9 for they are prophesying falsely to you in My name. I have not sent them.” This is the Lord’s declaration.

Verse 8-Through Jeremiah’s letter, God asked the exiles to stop listening to the lying claims of prophets and fortune tellers who were part of the community of exiles living in Babylon. Prophets were those who were called to declare God’s truth to the people. At times that truth included announcements of future events, some of which were certain to happen. Also, other events that might be changed or not done at all based on how the people responded to God’s message. The law included strict words for obeying genuine prophecies and for prophesying falsely. It also instructed the people on how to recognize a false prophetic message (it would not come to pass). Despite strict responsibility to God concerning the prophets, there were many prophets among God’s people besides those God used to write Scripture.
Fortune tellers made a practice of settling decisions or foretelling the future by means of reading signs and omens. Fortune telling was all too common among the various cultures of the ancient Near East, but God condemned the practice in the covenant law. It was among the specific sins identified as causing the divine judgment on the Northern Kingdom. That the practice of fortune telling remained among the exiles in Babylon was yet another indication the people still had not understood or took to heart God’s discipline.

Verse 9- The untrue message God had in mind for the exiles to reject was the claim that the captivity would soon end. God declared that any prophet or fortune teller who declared such a message in His name was prophesying falsely and was not sent by Him.

Remember the Lord Is in Control | Jeremiah 29:10-14
10 For this is what the Lord says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you”— this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you”—the Lord’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place I deported you from.”

Verse 10- The Lord announced His plan for His people’s future and assured them what they had experienced was not a series of unplanned, accidental events. Only by Godly revelation could Jeremiah know how long the Babylonian empire would last. The Lord was in control of history, and He would guide the rise and fall of empires to fulfill His purposes for creation in general and for His people in particular.
“Seventy years” may be understood as a proclamation by the Persian conqueror of Babylon that allowed the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. Whatever is the correct amount of time, the meaning of the phrase is that the exile would be long, but not permanent. God would guide human history for the advancement of His purposes.
The disciplinary punishment of God’s people by means of the exile would be followed at the Godly ordained time with the fulfillment of another divine promise. God declared that He would attend to His people and would restore them to the Holy land. This promise was evidence that God had not given up on His people but was working to bring them to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.

Verse 11- God strongly declared, “I know the plans I have for you.” He had planned the setting aside of the Holy land and the captivity of Judah’s citizens for a reason. In the people’s eyes, these events understandably were viewed as awful. From God’s view, however, the events were part of a greater plan of forgiveness. They were done for His people’s welfare and to give them a future and a hope. One day a small number of the exiles would return to spiritual faithfulness and would be restored to the Holy land.

Verses 12-13- God declared that the working out of His plan included the exiles turning to Him for help as they had stubbornly refused to do when they lived in Judah. To call to the Lord is to recognize that only He is the Source of help and deliverance. The exiles would come and pray to the Lord, and the Lord promised to listen to them. This promise was the change of a previous Godly declaration to refuse to hear the people’s cries for help. The difference for the exiles would be the changed condition of their hearts toward God.

The discipline of the exile was designed to bring the people toward genuine repentance. God promised that the people would find Him—that is, would be understanding of His presence and power for living—when they looked for Him humbly and wholeheartedly. In Hebrew thought, the heart was the foundation of human will and devotion. When people seek God with all their heart, they do away with all other rivals for God’s affection. They trust in no one or nothing else except the Lord. They hope only in Him for their future well-being.

Verse 14- In this verse, God explained the promise of renewal mentioned in Jeremiah 29:10. He told the exiles’ to expect: recognition of their guilt, acceptance of divine discipline, and eventual spiritual return to the Lord through repentance. The Lord promised that His people’s spiritual return would also include renewal in the Holy land. No matter where the people had been taken, God would gather them from all the nations. The certainty of these promises was shown by the twice-repeated prophetic plan, “this is the Lord’s declaration.” God stated that this was certainly what He would do.

[God always keeps His Word. We, as genuine believers, can always trust Him to do everything He has said He would do.]
Wayne Clemons, Teacher

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