MORNING MESSAGE – John Cline
Reader: Tinu Olabimtan
The Book of Jeremiah begins in this way:
The words of Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 1)
The next 51 chapters are then the words of Jeremiah that God gave to him to prophesy to his nation, Judah. At the end of chapter 51 we read,
The words of Jeremiah end here. (Jeremiah 51:64b)
So, it is the words of Jeremiah which fill chapters 1-51. We have those words in written form because Jeremiah orally dictated them to his assistant, Baruch, who, acting as a scribe, wrote them down onto a scroll. When Baruch was finished, Jeremiah instructed him to take that scroll to a public place and read it to everyone. Baruch complied. But when King Jehoiakim heard Jeremiah’s prophetic messages, he ripped the scroll apart column by column and burned it, page after page. So, Jeremiah and Baruch returned to the starting line and began writing out all of Jeremiah’s prophecies once again, but that second time more prophecies were added. Eventually, the first 51 chapters of the Book of Jeremiah emerged. So, we thank the Lord for Jeremiah, and we honour poor old Baruch, who got into some hot water for reading Jeremiah’s prophecies out loud in public, prophecies that weren’t even his own. Today, we will see that Baruch was not the only one in his family that Jeremiah imposed his prophecies upon, as his brother Seraiah was also recruited by Jeremiah – because Seraiah was going there anyway – to read out in Babylon the specific prophecies God had given to Jeremiah about the future downfall of Babylon. That specific prophecy will be the final one of prophecies in chapters 46-51 to nine different nations we will look at in today’s sermon. Before we do that, though, you may be wondering about the final chapter in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 52. As I have mentioned before it does not contain any words by Jeremiah. Instead, it was written by someone else, presumably Baruch, and then added to Jeremiah’s words at some later time to form the entire book. As we saw two weeks ago, chapter 52 begins with a description of the fall of Jerusalem to the attacking Babylonian army but ends with a strange addendum about how the imprisoned king of Judah, Jehoiachin had for some reason, been freed from his Babylonian prison and elevated from his previously lowly position to a high place in the king’s court. It is probable that this addendum was included to give hope to the Jewish people that though they were in exile, hope was not lost. God was still there and active.
In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death. (52:31-34)
So, things turned out quite well for Jehoiachin, but what about Jeremiah? Not so well. He was kidnapped by a dissident group of his fellow countrymen and taken as a hostage to Egypt. There, he kept on annoying his fellow Jews by appealing them to return to YHWH God, and to quit worshipping Egyptian gods such as the one we read of last week, Ishtar, the “Queen of Heaven”, whom the Jews defiantly chose to worship and serve. His own people grew so tired of Jeremiah’s rebukes, tradition tells us, that they stoned him to death. Jeremiah had been faithful to the end, though. It could not have been easy for him. Likewise, we read in the New Testament that the apostle Paul did not have an easy time of it. He had been imprisoned for his faithfulness to the Lord and sentenced to a death by beheading. However, just before the day of his death, Paul wrote one final letter to his beloved “son-in-the-faith”, Timothy, in which he told him:
I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (1 Timothy 4:6,7)
May we similarly fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith as Paul and Jeremiah did! Now, to the prophecies to nine nations that Jeremiah uttered (I admit I will be cherry-picking certain verses):
Chapter 46 is about nation #1, Egypt. Jeremiah gave Egypt two prophecies. We will start with the first, which would be fulfilled when Egypt was defeated by the Babylonians in the Battle of Carchemish in 609 BC, a battle considered by historians to be one of the most pivotal in ancient history as it influenced for several centuries the shape of things in the Ancient Near East. The Battle of Carchemish was fought on the shores of the Euphrates River in Assyria (modern-day Iraq).
Project map showing Egypt, Judah, Carchemish, and Babylon.
Note the sarcasm which with Jeremiah delivers his first prophecy:
This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: “Prepare your shields, both large and small, and march out for battle! Harness the horses, mount the steeds! Take your positions with helmets on! Polish your spears, put on your armor! What do I see? They are terrified, they are retreating, their warriors are defeated. They flee in haste without looking back, and there is terror on every side. The swift cannot flee nor the strong escape. In the north by the River Euphrates, they stumble and fall. That day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty – a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes.” (Jeremiah 26:2b-6)
Four years after the Jews had arrived in Egypt in 582 BC, Jeremiah had a second prophecy about Egypt, which the Babylonians would soon fulfill, in, once and for all, destroying Pharaoh’s dynastic line.
This is the message the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack Egypt: “Egypt will hiss like a fleeing serpent as the enemy advances in force; they will come against her with axes, like men who cut down trees. They will chop down her forest,” declares the Lord, “dense though it be. They are more numerous than locusts, they cannot be counted. Egypt will be put to shame, given into the hands of the people of the north.” The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh. I will give them into the hands of those who want to kill them – Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers.” (46:13-26a)
Chapter 47 is about nation #2, Philistia. Goliath the giant was a Philistine, and the Philistines always brought the Israelites grief.
Project map showing Egypt, Philistia, and Judah.
Centuries later, Romans changed the name of Philistia to Palestina, from which the word “Palestinians” came. Thus, you can see that the conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians is several thousands of years old. It will not be quickly or easily resolved.
This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh attacked Gaza: (Jeremiah 47:1)
This prophecy would be fulfilled in 605 BC when Egypt moved north to Gaza to engage the Babylonians, but the Babylonians heard about what the Egyptians were planning, and while going south to defeat them, the Babylonians first stopped and took out Philistia. This prophecy begins with an image of Babylonians being waters rising from the north and becoming a torrent sweeping away the Philistines.
This is what the Lord says: “See how the waters are rising in the north; they will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land and everything in it, the towns and those who live in them. The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land will wail at the sound of the hooves of galloping steeds, at the noise of enemy chariots and the rumble of their wheels. For the day has come to destroy all the Philistines. The Lord is about to destroy the Philistines, the remnant from the coasts. (Jer 47:2-4)
Chapter 48 is about nation #3, Moab.
Project map showing Judah, Moab, and Nebo.
Nebo is mentioned in this prophecy, Nebo being an important spot for the Jews as it was the high spot from which Moses had viewed the Promised Land. However, the Moabites worshipped the god Chemosh so, just as was the case with Egypt and its gods, this prophecy would involve the defeat of a false god. This prophecy would be fulfilled when the Babylonians invaded in 605 BC. Moab never recovered as a nation.
Concerning Moab: This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Woe to Nebo, for it will be ruined. Moab will be broken. Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive, and Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials. The destroyer will come against every town, and not a town will escape. Then Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh, as Israel was ashamed when they trusted in Bethel,” declares the King, whose name is the Lord Almighty. “The fall of Moab is at hand; her calamity will come quickly.” (Jer 48:2-16)
In the midst of this destruction, YHWH showed compassion for Moab:
“I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the people. I weep for you, you vines of Sibmah. Your branches spread as far as the sea; they reached as far as Jazer. The destroyer has fallen on your ripened fruit and grapes. Joy and gladness are gone from the orchards and fields of Moab. I have stopped the flow of wine from the presses; no one treads them with shouts of joy. Although there are shouts, they are not shouts of joy. In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods,” declares the Lord. “So, my heart laments for Moab like the music of a pipe; it laments like a pipe for the people.” (Jeremiah 48:32-36)
And then, the hope of a future for the Moabites is revealed by God.
“Woe to you, Moab! The people of Chemosh are destroyed; your sons are taken into exile and your daughters into captivity. Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 48:46,47)
In the midst of immediate destruction, God’s eternal compassion and
mercy for the Moabites and other people groups is seen throughout these prophecies. “In days to come”, “in the latter days”, always refers to the day of the Messiah’s coming, a major hope for Jeremiah. He didn’t know who the Messiah would be or when he would come. We Christians are blessed to know that that Jesus is the Messiah and that Moabites can be restored to full relationship with God. Chapter 49:1-6 is about nation #4, Ammon.
Project map showing Judah, Moab, and Ammon.
This prophecy would be fulfilled when the Babylonians took over Ammon in 605 BC. One century earlier, when the Assyrians had exiled the ten tribes of the northern nation of Israel in 722 BC, the nearby Ammonites saw the suddenly unpopulated land of the tribe of Gad to the west of them, and openly mocked that there were “no sons” and “no heirs” of Israel left. So, they went in and claimed that land as their own. YHWH never forgot that mocking for, in Israel’s destruction, the Ammonites had boasted that the god of the Ammonites, Molech, that evil god of destruction and child-sacrifice, had defeated YHWH. Not so!
Concerning the Ammonites: This is what the Lord says: “Has Israel no sons? Has Israel no heir? Why then has Molech taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns? But the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will sound the battle cry against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it will become a mound of ruins, and its surrounding villages will be set on fire.
I will bring terror on you from all those around you,” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. “Every one of you will be driven away, and no one will gather the fugitives. “Yet afterward, I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:1-6)
Again, the phrase, “Yet afterward” has the same inference as the earlier phrases, “In the days to come”, or “In the latter days”, as it is referring to the day of the Messiah’s coming, at which Ammonites will be restored to God through Jesus. God’s mercy is here, again, shown. Chapter 49:7-22 is about nation #5, Edom.
Project map showing Judah, Moab, Ammon, and Edom.
This prophecy would be fulfilled in 605 BC through the conquering Babylonians. You should know, because they are mentioned, that Edom was the home of the infamous cities Sodom and Gomorrah, and the man Esau was the father of the nation. We read,
Concerning Edom: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Turn and flee, hide in deep caves, for I will bring disaster on Esau at the time when I punish him. Edom will become an object of horror; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns,” says the Lord, “so no one will live there; no people will dwell in it. Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Edom from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?” (Jeremiah 49:7-19)
Chapter 49:23-27 is about nation #6: Aram, principally Damascus.
Project map showing Judah and Ammon and Damascus.
Damascus was the ancient capital of Aram (Syria). Babylon conquered Assyria to the north of Aram, in 605 BC, and Damascus and its neighbouring cities, Hamath and Arpad, were fearful and shortly thereafter, defeated, and the city walls of Damascus burned down.
Concerning Damascus: “Hamath and Arpad are dismayed,
for they have heard bad news. They are disheartened,
troubled like the restless sea. Damascus has become feeble,
she has turned to flee, and panic has gripped her; anguish and pain have seized her, pain like that of a woman in labor. Surely, her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will set fire to the walls of Damascus; it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.” (Jeremiah 49:23-27)
Chapter 49:28-33 is about nation #7, the combined nomadic kingdoms
of Kedar and Hazor which are referred to as a single nation.
Project map showing Judah, Kedar, and Hazor.
The nomadic tribesmen of those two kingdoms were employed extensively as mercenaries by Babylon. By doing so, they naively believed that Babylon would thus leave their people groups alone. It didn’t turn out that way because God, not the Babylonians, was in control. By having Babylon defeat those relatively insignificant kingdoms, God was showing that no one, however unimportant they might be on the world stage, can escape just punishment. It was in the year 599 BC that Nebuchadnezzar would defeat the unprotected lands of the Kedar and Hazor nomads, fulfilling this prophecy of Jeremiah’s.
Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, this is what the Lord says: “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has plotted against you; he has devised a plan against you. Arise and attack a nation at ease, which lives in confidence, a nation that has neither gates nor bars; its people live far from danger. Their camels will become plunder, and their large herds will be spoils of war. I will scatter to the winds those who are in distant places and will bring disaster on them from every side,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:28-32)
Chapter 49:34-39 is about nation #8, Elam.
Project map showing Judah, Babylon, and Elam.
This prophecy was fulfilled in 596 BC when Nebuchadnezzar overran Elam. This happened just after Zedekiah had risen to the throne in Judah but why would far-away Elam be singled out? Probably because it had sided with Babylon against Judah. This prophecy was a warning by God to other nations to not go to war against His people.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “See, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. I will shatter Elam before their foes, before those who want to kill them; I will bring disaster on them, even my fierce anger,” declares the Lord. “I will pursue them with the sword until I have made an end of them. I will set my throne in Elam and destroy her king and officials,”
declares the Lord. “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Elam
in days to come,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:34-39)
God’s mercy for all people, not just Jews, is again seen here in the promise of restoration “in days to come”, meaning that, in the day of the Messiah, Jesus, Elam’s relationship with God will be restored. Chapters 50 and 51 are about nation #9, the big one: Babylon.
Project map showing Judah and Babylon.
Let’s skip past chapters 50 and 51 for the moment to see what happened with Baruch’s brother, Seraiah. He was going to Babylon on a diplomatic journey with the then-king Zedekiah in 593 BC but when Jeremiah heard about that trip, he arranged for a scroll written by Seraiah’s brother Baruch (containing God’s prophecy given to Jeremiah concerning the nation of Babylon) be given to Seraiah, with the instruction that he had to read it out loud to the people of Babylon.
This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘Lord, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’” (Jeremiah 51:59-64)
This was Seraiah’s moment in the spotlight, whether he wanted it or not! Poor Seraiah! In any case, a word about Babylonian worship for it is referred to in this prophecy: their chief god was Bel-Marduk. We will also hear about a “nation from the north” conquering Babylon. That northern nation would be the newly-created nation of the Persians and Medes, under the leadership of King Cyrus the Great.
This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians: “Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror. Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror. A nation from the north will attack her and lay waste her land. I will stir up and bring against Babylon an alliance of great nations from the land of the north. They will take up their positions against her, and from the north she will be captured. Their arrows will be like skilled warriors who do not return empty-handed. So, Babylonia will be plundered; all who plunder her will have their fill,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 50:1-10)
This would have been such a shockingly offensive thing to Babylonian minds and ears. The message was that God was in control, not them.
“I set a trap for you, Babylon, and you were caught before you knew it; you were found and captured because you opposed
the Lord. The Lord has opened his arsenal and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Sovereign Lord Almighty has work to do in the land of the Babylonians.” (Jeremiah 50:24,25)
Who was in control of what was going on? Babylon? No, YHWH God!
“Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore, they have now gone mad. Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her!” (Jeremiah 51:7,8)
Those verses and imagery are quoted in the Book of Revelation concerning the evil end times Babylon referred to in that book.
“Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia for all the wrong they have done in Zion,” declares the Lord. “I am against you, you destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,” declares the Lord. “I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a
burned-out mountain.” (Jeremiah 51:24,25)
This prophecy contained a word from God about justice,
vengeance. retribution for what Babylon had done to God’s people.
“Prepare the nations for battle against her—the kings of the Medes, their governors and all their officials, and all the countries they rule. (Jeremiah 51:28).
Isaiah prophesied that Persians would defeat Babylon; Jeremiah prophesied that Medes would defeat Babylon; neither of them knowing, of course, that the Persians and Medes would be joining together to form one nation, which would take down the Babylonians, which they did in 538 BC, in fulfillment of those two prophecies.
Therefore, this is what the Lord says: “I will punish Bel in Babylon and make him spew out what he has swallowed. The nations will no longer stream to him. And the wall of Babylon will fall. Babylon’s thick wall will be leveled, and her high gates set on fire.” (Jeremiah 51: 41-44,58)
Hurray for Seraiah for courageously delivering this message! Hurray for his brother Baruch for faithfully writing it down! Hurray for Jeremiah for listening to God and stubbornly telling God’s messages! Those three men were faithful servants of our God. They did not give in to fear, to intimidation, to threats. They faithfully “fought the fight”, “finished the race”, and “kept the faith”. Now, back to the apostle Paul: when he finished his thoughts about having fought the fight, finished the race, and having kept the faith, Paul noted his reward:
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)
So, as we have arrived at the end of this preaching series through the Book of Jeremiah, what can we say we have learned?
- God is in control of history.
Humans think they are, but God is. He will allow bad things to happen because He is a compassionate God and a loving God. Us doing only what He tells us to do would make us robots and take away our free-will. But God is still in control.
- Jeremiah was a determined, and passionate person. He wept a lot but he never gave in.
Jeremiah’s message is ours to admire. We should emulate him.
- Jeremiah was a true prophet.
His prophecies were fulfilled. Whether they were those nine prophecies concerning nations we read about today, or about individuals such as false prophets and the kings of Judah, Jeremiah was dead on. Specifically, his prophecies about the Jews being in exile for 70 years was correct, as was his prophecy about the coming Messiah, the one he called God’s “Righteous Branch”.
- He believed in the coming Messiah and that knowledge gave him assurance, peace of mind and heart, as well as hope.
In today’s benediction, we will read through one last time Jeremiah’s description of that “Righteous Branch” of David. But, if Jeremiah’s belief in a Messiah he didn’t know but only knew about, how much stronger should our faith be, the faith of a people, of individuals who know that Messiah personally, who know Jesus? Should we ever fear humans? No! Knowing the Lord should energize, strengthen and guide us.
Those are the lessons we should have learned. In Jesus’ name! Amen!