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Reading Jeremiah

Written By Wade Mobley on 08/28/2014 | Posted in Christian HistoryQuiet Time with Jesus

We have been reading Jeremiah in our congregational reading plan lately. Our plan for this year takes a chronological approach, so we are in the Old Testament reading about the end (at the time) of Judah at the hands of Babylon. In order to help you read, I offer you some insights, first historical, then spiritual.

Geography and Timeline of Jeremiah

Every historical study needs geography and a time line. I have listed some important dates to know, based on what group of people was dominant in the region consisting of the modern day nations of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran. Egypt is in there to some extent, too, but they always kind of existed on their own apart from a few ill-fated attempts to be the big dog on the middle eastern block. More recent archaeological finds demonstrate that Babylon conquered the northern part of Egypt, a conquest predicted in Jeremiah 44:30, but long cited as critics of the Bible as a historical inaccuracy.

First, some regions talked about in Scripture, and where they fit in the modern map, roughly, realizing that their expanded kingdoms covered most of the region at their respective heights:

  • Israel and Egypt- modern day counterparts
  • Assyria- modern day Syria and the northern part of Jordan
  • Babylon- modern day Iraq
  • Persia- modern day Iran

Second, some dates:

  • 1446 BC- The Exodus from Egypt
  • c. 1000 BC (circa means "about" and is abbreviated as "c.")- height of David's kingdom
  • 930 BC- kingdom divided
  • 722/721 BC- fall of northern tribes (everyone but Judah and Benjamin) to Assyria
  • 586 BC- fall of southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) to Babylon
  • 612 BC- fall of Assyria (capital city of Nineveh) to an allied army led by Babylon
  • 586 BC- fall of Jerusalem to Babylon (this fall, like most, was a slow process with a sudden end)
  • 539 BC- fall of Babylon to the Persians and the Medes
  • Soon after- the decree of Cyrus, releasing the Jews from captivity to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1)
  • 331 BC- Alexander the Great (of Macedonia/Greece) conquers the Medo-Persian Empire

Painting Pictures of Egypt

Third, a historical insight: Israel spent 400 years in captivity in Egypt, but they never got Egypt out of their hearts. When they saw Pharaoh's army and the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Red Sea, they wanted to return to Egypt. When lean times came in the wilderness and the conquest, they wanted to return to Egypt. When Abraham's offspring faced famine in the time of Joseph, they found shelter in Egypt. When Babylon threatened in Jeremiah's time, they turned to Egypt. In the words of Sara Groves they kept painting pictures of Egypt and leaving out what it lacked.

God, though, had a different plan. Egypt was the oppressor, not a refuge. God's "I know the plans that I have for you" (Jeremiah 29:11) included 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The Jews were to go into captivity, invest in the land of the captors, and wait for their day of deliverance that would come from the hand of God. Those who resisted would lose their lives. The only way to survive was to accept captivity and wait for deliverance.

Jeremiah proclaimed this message of short-term pain and long-term gain, and the Jews didn't like it one bit. That is understandable, for those deciding to go into captivity would probably not be around to taste the deliverance. Jeremiah proclaimed, most men ridiculed, and several powerful men plotted against his life. Those who fled to Egypt to escape Babylon died there. Even those who tried to overthrow the puppet king Gedaliah of Israel (put there by Nebuchadnezzar) came out on the wrong side of history.

Yet the word of the Lord came to pass. Jerusalem would be rebuilt several years later, and the Jews returned in safety under the care and protection of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who conquered Babylon. So what does this have to do with your life today? I'm glad you asked.

How Does This Apply To Us?

Israel's sin and rebellion had left them in a place of judgment. God's promises and covenant remained valid, but they were about to suffer for their unbelief. The only way for Israel to live was to embrace God's judgment in captivity in Babylon, then trust God's promises for deliverance and restoration. His hands were loving and trustworthy, and even though this was a time of discipline, they could trust the trustworthy God. To live, they had to die.

That should sound familiar. Your sin and rebellion have left you in a place of judgment. God's promises and covenants in Christ all remain valid. The only way for you to live is to accept your death sentence- I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live (Galatians 2:20a)- and trust God's promises for deliverance and restoration- but Christ lives in me Galatians 2:20b).

There is no other way to save your life.

Pastor Wade

Editor's Note: The illustration of Jeremiah featured on this post is from a series of illustrations from Jeremiah provided by Sweet Publishing, through Distant Shores Media, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Thankful to the Living God for life, redemption and His many blessings. Doing my best to reflect His character in all I do.

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