August 21 — Willful Disobedience — Jer. 36-38. Again, Jeremiah wrote about events involving the earlier king Jehoiakim and the last king Zedekiah. Jehoiakim comes across as a blatantly arrogant and foolish man as he deliberately burns the “pages” of Jeremiah’s scroll as they are being read to him. He didn’t wait to see how “the story” would end because his mind was already made up. He didn’t want to believe anything Jeremiah wrote. Many people in our day have the same attitude about God’s Word. Although they have not read it, they have decided that it is not true and, therefore, has nothing of value for them. You are reading through the Bible this year because you know that it is valuable—and it is. It is changing you.
August 22 — Trustworthy Words — Jer. 39-42. In the first chapter of Jeremiah, God had promised protection for him: “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you” (1:19). God kept His promise after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, whose king gave orders to “look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you” (39:11). Wow, Nebuchadnezzar had more faith in the words of Jeremiah than the Judeans did! After the king’s appointed governor was murdered, the remaining Judeans feared retaliation from the Babylonians, so they wanted Jeremiah to tell them what to do. They swore that they would do whatever the Lord told him: “Whether good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God” (42:6). Tomorrow we will find out if they trusted Jeremiah as much as Nebuchadnezzar did. Don’t hold your breath!
August 23 — Slow Learners — Jer. 43-46. No surprise! The Judeans who captured Jeremiah and took him to Egypt did not accept his prophecy, saying, “You are telling a lie” (43:2). Even after Jeremiah’s former prophecies about Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon had been fulfilled, they still refused to believe him. God said that He had “persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets” (44:4), so it was not only Jeremiah’s message but God also warned Judah through His prophets Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah during that same time period. God’s earlier plans for Judah had been “for welfare and not for evil” (29:11) but because of their disobedient flight to Egypt, God then said, “I am watching over them for disaster and not for good” (44:27). Jeremiah prophesied that the Egyptian Pharaoh Hophra (44:30) to whom they fled for safety would be killed, which he was—another fulfilled prophecy to emphasize the truth of Jeremiah’s messages. We must learn, maybe through being disciplined, that it is much better to always obey God.
August 24 — Judgment — Jer. 47-48. The last section of Jeremiah concerns the coming judgment against nations around, or connected with, the people of God. We read yesterday about Egypt, and today about Philistia and Moab. The Philistines were coastal people living west of the Hebrews. Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were descendants of one of the daughters of Lot, born out of incest along with her sister, who bore Ammon. We will read tomorrow about judgment on his descendants. Although God used Babylon to destroy Moab around 582 BC, it was Yahweh who was bringing punishment on them because of their boasts and deeds (48:30) and their making “sacrifice in the high place … offerings to his god” (48:35). God’s reaction to their devastating punishment is very interesting, however: “I wail for Moab … I mourn … I weep for you” (48:31-32). Why? “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezk. 33:11). God is both perfectly just and perfectly loving.
August 25 — What is Permanent? — Jer. 49-50. In our reading for today, judgment is predicted for these peoples: 1) the Ammonites, east of the Dead Sea, 2) the Edomites, descendants of Esau living further south, 3) the nomadic southeastern tribes of Kedar and Hazor, 4) “the famous city” (49:25) of Damascus in the north, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, 5) Elam, east of Babylon, and 6) Babylon itself. The comment about Edomites “who live in the clefts of the rock” (49:16) should make us think of the popular tourist site of Petra, Jordan, located in ancient Edom. They thought they would live in that uniquely fortified underground city forever. The structure is still there, but not the people. The destruction of the city of Babylon was permanent. “She shall never again have people, or be inhabited for all generations” (50:39), a situation that still exists today.
August 26 — Discipline and Grace — Jer. 51-52. As Judah’s exile to Babylon began, these final chapters of Jeremiah predict how that exile would end 70 years later. Although God punished them because of their disobedience and idolatry, “Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God” (51:5). Then, from the faraway place of Babylon, God called them to remember Him “and let Jerusalem come into your mind” (51:50). They would have to be encouraged to return to their homeland. God also showed His grace by moving Babylon’s new king, with the terrible name of Evil-merodach, to release and honor Judah’s former short-term king, Jehoiachin, who had spent 37 years in a foreign prison (52:31).
August 27 — Lamentations — Lam. 1-2. You may notice that chapters 1 and 2 have 22 verses each, which is true also for chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 3 is a multiple, at 66 verses. This is because this book features an acrostic form, with each verse (or stanza in ch. 3) beginning with each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a carefully structured formal statement of grief over the destruction of Jerusalem because of its sin. Jeremiah is the traditionally accepted author of this book, which shares many common expressions of his longer prophecy. Here are some “Big Ideas in Lamentations” from The Quick View Bible: 1) God can use humans to execute his judgment. 2) The proper response to sin is to repent and request forgiveness. 3) Because of God’s great love, his people are never without hope. 4) Humans can see and experience God even through pain.