August 14 — Jeremiah 26-29 — What is truth? (about 588 BC). There were many prophets in Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah. The leaders and the people were hearing the prophecies from all of them. Many times, the messages were contradictory. Which message should they believe? Which one was the truth? We know now that Jeremiah’s message was the true one because, with God’s Word, we can look back in hindsight. Four times in these chapters, Jeremiah warned the people not to listen to the other prophets because they were lying (27:9-10, 14, 16; 29:8-9). Should they believe Jeremiah or the other prophets? The test of truth is whether their prophecy is fulfilled as they predicted (28:9). In defending Jeremiah, the city officials used the argument that the former prophet Micah’s message of deliverance with repentance did come true (26:18-19). If the people heard the prophecy Jeremiah gave to the rebel prophet Hananiah, that he would die within the year, they would have known who was the true prophet because Hananiah died two months after Jeremiah’s prophecy (28:1, 17). Truth is not always what we want to hear but it is always best. We have the truth in God’s Word that we are reading every day.
August 15 — Jeremiah 30-31 — The New Covenant (about 588 BC). Although the New Testament mentions the “new covenant” seven times, Jer. 31:31 is the only place in the Old Testament where this expression is used. It definitely referred to the future because it is introduced with, “Behold, the days are coming…” (v. 31). When? It is often difficult to understand future times in prophecies because sometimes they have more than one fulfillment. The first of three times the phrase, “Behold, the days are coming” is used, God said, “I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (31:27), apparently referring to the Jews returning to the Promised Land after their exile to Babylon. The third time that phrase is used (31:38), it speaks of “the city” (Jerusalem) that “shall be rebuilt for the LORD” and that “It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever” (31:40). Since Jerusalem was overthrown in 70AD after the earthly ministry of Jesus, verse 40 must refer to a subsequent time, perhaps even after Christ’s return. That leaves verse 31, which at least partly seems to refer to the Christian era: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts … they shall all know me … For I will forgive their iniquity” (vv. 33-34). We are living in New Covenant times but there are even better things to come in our future.
August 16 — Jeremiah 32-34 — Disaster with Hope (about 588 BC). Four times in these chapters, God predicted disaster for Jerusalem because of the people’s sin (32:4, 28; 34:2, 20). It was a terrifying time for those living in the city. It was surrounded by the huge army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. But also, four times, future hope is offered to the Jews. They would be punished but God was not finished with them. Houses would again be bought (32:15) and God promised that “I will bring them back to this place” (v. 37), “I will restore the fortunes of Judah” (33:7), and “when I fulfill the promise … I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David” (33:14-15), the coming Messiah. I suppose one could call it the cloud with a silver lining or the light at the end of the tunnel. When God is in charge, there is always hope for the future. Have you experienced a disaster recently? Has your “city” been sacked? Has that which was precious to you been carried away? Hope in God instead of reacting in bitterness! He has triumph reserved for you on the other side of tragedy. The death of my wife was the hardest hurdle of my life but I have seen God bring many blessings out of that heartbreak that I would probably not have experienced without that great loss.
August 17 — Jeremiah 35-37 — Fearing the Word (about 588 BC). God twice gave Jeremiah and Baruch a daunting task. He was told to write on a scroll “all the words I have spoken to you” (36:2). The first 35 chapters in Jeremiah have over 27,000 words in the ESV. Of course, not even half of them could be considered to be “words I have spoken to you” but if just the statements following “Thus says the LORD” were added up, it would be quite a lot to remember and to print with pen and ink. Jeremiah dictated and Baruch wrote it down. When Micaiah heard Baruch read it in the temple area (v. 11), he was alarmed and notified palace officials about its content. The officials called Baruch to read it to them and “they turned to one another in fear” (v. 15). Those words predicted doom for Jerusalem and Judah and it frightened them. They knew it was a dangerous message for the king to hear, so they advised Jeremiah and Baruch to go into hiding (v. 19). Then, they reported the message to King Jehoiakim. Did he fear the Word when he heard it read? No, “neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid” (v. 24). The king burned each sheet after it was read. Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” but Jehoiakim was being very foolish. How do we react to the warnings we read in the Bible? Do we fear punishment, or do we disregard them as not binding for us? We need to show we are wise by obeying God.
August 18 — Jeremiah 38-40, Ps. 74, 79 — Fearing the Unknown (about 588 BC). The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, feared the future. He didn’t know what to do because he wouldn’t rely on God. He sent for Jeremiah, who told him, “…you will not listen to me” (38:15). Zedekiah was offered life if he would surrender to the Babylonians (v. 17) and was warned that if he didn’t, he would not escape them (v. 18). He was afraid, however, that already-surrendered Judeans would “deal cruelly with me” (v. 19). He feared the unknown and he guessed at the future. Instead of doing what God told him to do through Jeremiah, he refused to surrender and suffered far worse punishment from Nebuchadnezzar, who dealt with him very cruelly. His sons were killed before him and then his own eyes were put out (39:6). What a memory to carry for the rest of one’s life! In contrast, Jeremiah was treated very kindly by Nebuchadnezzar, telling his head officer to “look after him well, and do him no harm” (39:12). He was given “an allowance of food and a present” (40:5) and allowed to stay in Judah in the home of the newly appointed governor (v. 6). We don’t know the future but God does and He directs us to the best path and result if we are faithful in obeying Him.
August 19 — 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chron. 36 — Rebellion (about 609 – 537 BC). The last years of Judah, before being exiled in Babylon, were filled with rebellion by its kings. Their rebellion was primarily against the Lord. It was said of all of them that they “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (King Jehoiakim—2 Chron. 36:5; his son Jehoiachin—2 Kings 24:9; his uncle Zedekiah—vs. 19). Secondly, two of the three also rebelled against the King of Babylon in opposition to Jeremiah’s direction. Jehoiakim died about the time of Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem and blinded Zedekiah died in Babylon. Jehoiachin surrendered to Babylon and spent 36 years in prison before being released and treated well by a later king (2 Kings 25:27-30). Whenever we read something in God’s Word that applies to us but we refuse to obey it, it amounts to rebellion against God, and that never ends well.
August 20 — Habakkuk 1-3 — How Long? (about 625 BC). The question “How long?” is asked twice in Habakkuk. Once, God is asked (1:2) it and once human oppressors are asked that question (2:6). This same question is asked over 60 times in the Bible; in 17 of them, God is asked, 13 of those in Psalms. Habakkuk’s question to God was, “how long shall I cry for help” (1:2). God didn’t seem to be listening to the cry of righteous people against injustice and He was about to use an even more wicked Chaldean nation to punish sinful Judah (vv. 12-13). The question of “How long?” was answered by God with three specific instructions to those who would believe the prophecy. The first was “… so he may run who reads it” (2:2). They were to get out of the path of punishing Babylon! The second instruction was for patience and trust: “If it seems slow, wait for it” (2:3). God will punish evil in His timing. Habakkuk responded, “I will quietly wait for the day of trouble” (3:16). The third instruction was for the same believers: “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4). Our lives must be lived in faith, knowing God and believing that what He says is true and what He promises will happen in His good, and perfect, timing.