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Monday, May 2, 2016

When the World starts falling apart...

The more I read about Jeremiah, the more he feels like a real person, committed, conflicted, struggling with real doubts and fears, yet always reminding himself, through prayer, to trust in God. This week's study takes him from the day he got kicked out of the Temple to the day the Babylonians camped at the gates of Jerusalem - scary times, and the whole world's falling apart.

(25) Jeremiah

Jeremiah wasn’t born in Jerusalem, but he probably did most of his growing up in the Temple, associating with his father and the good king Josiah. Now Jehoiakim’s on the throne and things are falling apart. After Jeremiah’s big sermon in the courtyard of the Temple, his life is threatened. A few good priests speak up for him, but he’s banned from the Temple – his home – and God sends him to preach in Jerusalem and other cities of Judah.

1.       Reade Jeremiah 11:1-5. How big a deal is disobedience? Why doesn’t this mean we have to obey the letter of Jewish dietary law or have our sons circumcised?(Read Ephesians 2:8-9, James 2:10)

2.       Read Jeremiah 11:14-17. Is it ever too late to repent? How are punishment and natural consequences balanced?

Jeremiah makes his complaints to the Lord, and the Lord answers. Before you read on, What kind of answers do we expect from God?

3.       Read Jeremiah 11:18-20. Why might it not be appropriate for us to ask to see God’s vengeance?

4.       Read Jeremiah 12:1-3. Does this remind you of Habakkuk? Does the fact that God knows you (verse 3) make you more or less likely to ask to see God’s vengeance?

5.       Read Jeremiah 12:5-6. Have you ever felt betrayed by circumstance, people, or even by God? What helped you?

6.       Read Jeremiah 12:7,14-15. Does God reject his people completely? How does that change your view of history?

In 605BC, when Johoiakim’s been on the throne 4-5 years, Assyria and Egypt ally against Babylon again. Pharaoh Necho has to march through Philistine territory, between Judah and the coast. He defeats the Philistines but fails against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar destroys the Assyrian army and should probably have followed the retreating Egyptians South to conquer Egypt too. But his father has died so he returns to Babylon to be crowned king.

1.       Read Jeremiah 47:1-4 Who really conquers the Philistines? How willing are we to credit God with world events?

2.       Read Jeremiah 46:1-8,11-12. Why do you think God compares the Egyptians to a flood? What might God compare modern countries to? (Gilead, east of the Jordan, was a good source for medicinal herbs, but Egypt was famous for its own medicines.)

With the Assyrians defeated and Egypt kicked out of Carchamesh, Babylon is free to march into Judah. Should Judah be scared of Babylon (the future), or more comforted by seeing God’s power (the past)? How do we balance future fears and past fulfilment of promise in the way we live our lives? Jeremiah offers some parables.

1.       Read Jeremiah 13:1-11. Can you paraphrase the lesson of the linen sash? Can you relate to the idea of being ruined if not clinging to God?

2.       Read Jeremiah 13:12-14. Wineskins filled with wine were essential to survival in their world, so, is this an argument against drunkenness or something else? What is essential to survival in our world? What gifts of God might we see misused today?

3.       Read Jeremiah 18:1-4. It’s a powerful analogy. Can you think of something similarly powerful in our modern world?

4.       Read Jeremiah 18:13-19. Judah was once defined among other nations by how God led the slaves from Egypt. How do other nations see Judah now? How has the world’s view of Christianity changed over time? How does the world view Christians today, and what might we be called to do about it?

Jeremiah has been banned from the Temple since his “temple sermon.” But that doesn’t stop him writing another sermon on a scroll and having his friend Baruch read it. According to recent discoveries, Baruch was probably a royal scribe – an important person. He may have become friends with Jeremiah in the days of King Josiah. He was clearly a good friend, and follows Jeremiah into exile later.

1.       Read Jeremiah 36:1-6,9-10, 45:1-5. There’s a Jewish fast in late 604BC, a year after Nebuchadnezzar’s victory. How might Baruch have felt as he awaited his chance to read? How easy is it to be patient while the world falls apart?

2.       Read Jeremiah 25:1-3,12-13. Why might some historians think these are the words in the scroll?

3.       Read Jeremiah 25:8-9. How might people have felt hearing Nebuchadnezzar referred to as God’s servant? What nations or leaders might be called God’s servants today?

4.       Read Jeremiah 25:11-12. What would the number 70 have meant to the people?

5.       Read Jeremiah 36:11-19. Lots of advisors to the king are named. What kind of risk are they taking?

6.       Read Jeremiah 36:20-26. What image do you get of the king’s court?

7.       Read Jeremiah 36:28. Can God’s word be destroyed?

8.       Read Jeremiah 36:30-31. Didn’t God promise there would always be a Davidian king? How open to interpretation are God’s promises? How easily do we assume he’s promising what we want?

Read 2 Kings 24:1-3, Daniel 1:1-4. Jehoiakim ends up paying tribute to Babylon for a few years. At this point, he probably sends some influential sons of Judah to Babylon as hostages as well, probably including Daniel. He will rebel again later, seemingly successfully. But in 597BC Babylon will lay siege to Jerusalem and capture it. At this point, Jehoiakim will die and his son will be deposed.

1.       Read Jeremiah 15:10-11. How does Jeremiah feel about the messages he deliver? Would you want to be God’s mouthpiece?

2.       Read Jeremiah 15:12-13. What did Jesus say about paying tribute to a governing body?

3.       Read Jeremiah 15:14. Which famous prophet will be taken into exile in Babylon? And where will Jeremiah go/be sent?

4.       Read Jeremiah 15:16. What other times can you remember where people “eat” God’s word? (Read Ezekiel 3:3, Revelation 10:10, Psalm 119:103)

5.       Read Jeremiah 15:18. Is it okay to complain to God? Have you ever complained? How did God respond?

6.       Read Jeremiah 15:21. Is God promising comfortable deliverance? Is that what God gives us?

A time of war, poverty and drought is coming. Jeremiah calls the nation to weep, weeps for the nation, weeps with the nation, wants to run away, wants all everyday life to stop, and still fails to make a difference. What image of Jeremiah are you getting? And what image of the people? How has God balanced punishment and consequence? And how has he answered Jeremiah’s prayers?

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