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Monday, May 9, 2016

Last Days of the Dynasty

We're going to take a break from our Bible studies during the summer, so this is the last one till the fall. Jerusalem is about to be conquered by Babylon. The nation will again be split in two. And fall will take our studies to Babylon, where Daniel and Ezekiel preach. Poor old Jeremiah gets left behind to watch things fall apart, and we'll revisit him too, and Isaiah. But for now, here's a study of an old dynasty's last days.

Watch this space for other studies or stories as we wait for Fall, and thank you for following along with us.

 (26) Jeremiah – A Reluctant Prophet

Judah is falling apart. Cities are falling to the invading Babylonians. Refugees are crowding into Jerusalem. Among the refugees are a small tribe called the Recabites. God uses them to convey an important message through Jeremiah.

1.       The Recabites are descended from Jonadab, who appeared briefly in the story of Jehu, when God used him to oppose King Ahab of Israel.  Read 2 Kings 10:15-16,23-25.

2.       Read Jeremiah 35:1-2,5-7,11. The Recabites have some pretty strict rules. Will rules or personal obedience be more important in this story? Read verse 16.

3.       Read Jeremiah 35:13-14 The Recabites obey their forefather. Are there any people today who might inspire us to greater obedience?

4.       Read Jeremiah 35:17-19. Why does God spare the Recabites? What might this mean for us?

Nebuchadnezzar is almost to the gates. Jeremiah has preached repentance and been kicked out of the Temple. He’s had his friend Baruch deliver God’s words on a scroll, and the scroll was burned. And now he’s gone into hiding. Meanwhile false prophets proclaim that all will be well.

1.       How can we tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one? Do we really have wait until after the prophesied disaster?

2.       Read Jeremiah 23:9-10. What 4 things add to Jeremiah’s troubles? Jeremiah says “because of the Lord...” Have you ever accused God of being part of your problem?

3.       Read Jeremiah 23:13-14. How does God feel about the state of his people? The people’s status as God’s family was always more important than their status as a nation. How do you think God feels about the state of his family today?

4.       Read Isaiah 37:33-35, Jeremiah 23:17. The false prophets are using God’s word to disprove God’s word? Read Matthew 4:6. How can we be sure of anyone’s interpretation of scripture? Read Jeremiah 23:22

Jeremiah proclaims that God will withdraw his word from his people. The prophets respond by attacking him with words

1.       Read Jeremiah 23:33, 18:18. There’s a saying that words don’t hurt. Do you believe it?

2.       Read Jeremiah 18:20-21. Does this sound cruel? Or is he just proclaiming the prophecies he received before?

3.       Read Jeremiah 19:1-3,6,10-12. Do you remember the history of Tophet and the Valley of Hinnon (child sacrifice, garbage dump)? Is Jeremiah breaking the “no words” rule, or is he preaching with more than words?

Let’s meet a false prophet and see what he does to a true one.

1.       Read Jeremiah 20:1-4. How might a modern false prophet act against a modern true prophet?

2.       How do you think Jeremiah might have felt in the stocks? Read Jeremiah 20:7

3.       Read Jeremiah 20:9-10. Do people/the media watch to hear modern prophets “stumble”?

4.       Read Jeremiah 20:13. Do you think the poor felt delivered at this point? Do you think Jeremiah did? How hard is it to praise God before he answers prayer? And how important is it?

5.       Read Jeremiah 20:14-15. God is with him. Why doesn’t he sound triumphant? How might Jeremiah’s depression help us pray when things go wrong?

6.       Read Jeremiah 20:16. Jeremiah knows what will happen to the false prophet, but he doesn’t see any good futures for himself either. How do you react when you can’t see any good outcomes? How does society react?

Pharaoh Necho manages to hold Egypt’s borders against Babylon, but at great cost. Meanwhile Jehoiakim dies and his son Coniah/Jehoiachin takes the throne, only to surrender to Babylon in 3 months (Read 2 Kings 24:7-12). Jeremiah’s not terribly impressed with either Judean king.

1.       Read Jeremiah 22:18-19. Tradition said God chose the kings of Judah, but standing on faith or tradition doesn’t save them. What traditions might we be falsely standing on?

2.       Read Jeremiah 22:24-26. Lots of people were taken to Babylon. This might not include Daniel as he was probably taken earlier, but it probably does include Ezekiel.

3.       Read Jeremiah 22:28-30. So... is Coniah evil, or it just too late?

4.       Read Jeremiah 13:15-18. Why might this be something Jeremiah said to Coniah? Why might a new king be proud? Why might we be proud?

5.       Read Jeremiah 13:20-25. What falsehoods do we personally or nationally trust in?

Read 2 Kings 24:10-17. The Babylonians added the best and brightest to their own court. There they’d be trained as good wise Babylonians, ready to rule in Babylon’s name.  Meanwhile a puppet ruler is left behind to govern the remnant of the people. In this case, Jehoiachin’s uncle becomes king and is given the name Zedekiah.

1.       Which half of the nation, humanly speaking, would you view as the hope for God’s people – those removed or those left behind?

2.       Read Daniel 1:1-4, 2 Kings 24:1. Given that Daniel and his friends have already been in Babylon for several years, does that alter which half of the nation you’d expect to be saved?

3.       Jeremiah is left behind. Read Jeremiah 24:1-3. How might Jeremiah want to interpret the vision?

4.       Read Jeremiah 24:4-7. How might Jeremiah feel, learning that those he’s prophesied against are going to be redeemed? Who does Christian society prophesy against? How might we feel if they become the chosen ones?

5.       Read Jeremiah 24:8-10. But Jeremiah is one of them!

6.       God has provided for the Babylonian exiles, and given them prophets before they even arrive. But he doesn’t seem to have mentioned any of this to Jeremiah. Are there times when you’ve been completely surprised by God’s provision.

So the nation is split in two, again!

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