August 7 — Jeremiah 1-3 — Sin is Wrong and Hard (about 627 BC).
Jeremiah lived in terrible times and had a terrible job. The righteous King Josiah was still in power over Judah when Jeremiah was called but the people continued to slip into disobedience against God. Along with his contemporary prophets, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, Jeremiah called for repentance over 100 times. He ministered for over 40 years, through the times of Judah’s last four kings and one governor (see the royal tree figure), until Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and most of their surviving people exiled. Jeremiah was taken to Egypt, probably dying there. He asked Judah, “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God?” (2:17). He also gives us all the reminder “that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God” (v. 19). Sin is wrong and hard. We should see it in its proper perspective, not in the attraction that appeals to our sinful nature.
August 8 — Jeremiah 4-6 — Faithful Remnant (about 627 BC). The spiritual climate in Judah had sunk into a slimy pit. Even the prophets and priests were leading the people astray, falsely promising, “Peace, peace” when there was no peace (6:13-14), to which God added the sad statement that “my people love to have it so” (5:31). Their spiritual leaders were preaching what people wanted to hear but “the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it” (6:10). So, God declared, “I am bringing disaster upon this people … because they have not paid attention to my words … they have rejected it” (v. 19). Yet, in the middle of the many pronouncements of punishing destruction, God made three merciful statements like this: “I will not make a full end of you” (5:18, cf. 4:27, 5:10). God always left a remnant of people who would follow Him. Today, we live in the midst of cultures that are falling away from God and rejecting His Word but we are His remnant, His mark of mercy.
August 9 — Jeremiah 7-9 — Persistent and Perpetual (about 627 BC). There is another contrast in our reading today between God’s actions and mankind’s response. On the one hand, God reviewed His dealings with Israel since their escape from Egypt. He said, “to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day” (7:25). That was God’s persistent call. On the other hand, we see the perpetual sinning of the people. God asked, “Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding … saying ‘What have I done?’” (8:5-6). That was mankind’s perpetual sin. Both are doing what was natural for them: God’s love continually urges Him to call out to us but our sinful nature continually urges us to turn to our “own course” (8:6). What we need to be persistent about is not only reading God’s Word every day but constantly striving to know more about our God “who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (9:24).
August 10 — Jeremiah 10-13 — Drawing the Listening Line (about 622 – 609 BC). These chapters say a lot about listening. Jeremiah was told, “Proclaim all these words … Hear the words of this covenant and do them” (11:6). He proclaimed the message to Judah, “but they would not listen” (12:11). Men from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth warned him, “Do not prophesy … or you will die” (11:21). God warned that there is a penalty for not listening: “Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant” (11:3). God was patient to a point but then drew a limit line. At that point, He declared, “Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them” (11:10), and He even tells Jeremiah, “do not pray for this people … for I will not listen when they call to me” (11:14). Punishment had begun: “the LORD’s flock has been taken captive” (13:17) and “all Judah is taken into exile” (v. 19). After their Babylonian exile, God would give Judah another chance: “I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again … to this land” (12:15). But the same condition of listening would be applied to those who returned, which was: “if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name” (12:16). When we expose ourselves to God’s Word, we need to really listen, taking it to heart, and applying it in practice.
August 11 — Jeremiah 14-17 — Do Not Marry! (about 609 BC). It seems so unfair that God would tell Jeremiah, “You shall not take a wife” (16:2). He would have to forego the satisfaction of intimacy and having a family. Although it probably seemed unfair to Jeremiah, seeing the larger picture and the future, God knew that it was best for the prophet in the long run. God knew that Jeremiah’s potential family would likely have suffered a great tragedy like others who would “die of deadly diseases” (16:4). Instead, Jeremiah was to continue performing his ministry of warning Jerusalem and Judah. There are also things in our lives that may seem unfair. Why am I single? Why do I have a deformity? Why am I poor? We also do not see the whole picture or the future but God does, and He gives to us exactly what is best for us and for His kingdom’s growth. In the meantime, let us keep on doing the ministry that God has placed before us, bringing help to others and glory to God.
August 12 — Jeremiah 18-22 — Your Choice! (about 609 – 588 BC). There are several if-then choices offered to Judah in these chapters. God gave a general principle that if He declares punishment because of sin and the nation “turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster” (18:7-8). The other side is also true, that if God promises good but the people turn to do evil, “then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do” (vv. 9-10). Your choice: obedience with blessings, or evil with punishment. God presented another choice to the people of Jerusalem and Judah when the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was threatening them: “I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die … but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans … shall live” (21:8-9). Your choice: stay and die, or surrender and live. We have the same choice today between obedience and sin. We also have the same encouragement to surrender, not to the Chaldeans but to God, in order to really live.
August 13 — Jeremiah 23-25 — Leadership Quality (about 588 BC). God was fed up with the human leadership over His people. They were “shepherds who … scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1). God described their evil character: “Both prophet and priest are ungodly” (v. 11). He warned the people, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets … who prophesy lying dreams” (vv. 16, 32). They would be punished along with the people they led astray. But God also revealed a future time when a supreme godly leader would reign: “I will raise up … a righteous Branch … [who] shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (v. 5). The quality of this Leader is much different than the merely human ones, as noted by the name describing Him: “The LORD our righteousness” (v. 6). That is the Messiah, who came and was rejected by the Jews but who will return to claim His Church that will be with Him forever. Do you sometimes get disappointed by the leadership in your church? They may not be evil people who reject God and lead people astray but they are still human, making mistakes and committing sin. Pray for them and encourage them while waiting for the only Perfect Shepherd who is yet to come … again!