II Kin. 23:35-37; II Chron. 36:5-7; Jer. 26:1-6; 7:1-8:3
It took only a short time for Judah’s government to fall apart after the death of Josiah. Twenty-five year old Jehoiakim being a vassal or puppet king under Egypt gave their silver and gold to Pharaoh and under his direction taxed the people and gave that money to the Egyptian king.
The Lord came to Jeremiah with instructions to stand at the gates of the temple and to speak His warning to the people. God in His mercy was giving them another chance to turn in repentance from their wicked ways. The prophet reminded them of the evils that they had committed and gave them a way to escape God’s wrath. They were guilty of stealing, murder, adultery, false swearing, burning incense and walking after other gods and even sacrificing their sons and daughters as burnt offerings to the god, Molech. Even though Jeremiah was to speak those words to the people, God told him that they would not obey nor answer him.
(We cringe at the thought of offering innocent young children as sacrifices to gods during the times of the prophets. However, somehow it is morally acceptable to abort the lives of innocent unborn babies under the guise of “The Right to Choose.” Whatever happened to the babies’ “right to choose?” Go figure!! God will not hold those murderers blameless if they do not repent.)
II Kin. 23:28-34; II Chron. 35:20-36:4; Jer. 22:10-17
The life of a king was one of boldness and danger. As Egypt’s King Necho aided the Assyrians at Carchemish, King Josiah of Judah went up against the Egyptian king. Even though the Egyptian battle did not directly pertain to Judah, Josiah perceived it as an Egyptian/Assyrian threat and disguised himself to fight Necho. King Josiah was mortally wounded in that battle after serving thirty one years as one of Judah’s greatest kings. His death ended Judah’s years of glory as his sons who succeeded him refused to follow his righteous ways.
Jehoahaz was the first of Josiah’s sons to succeed him to the throne. After an evil reign of only three months he was captured by King Necho and imprisoned in Riblah, Hamath in the northern part of what had once been Israel. Upon returning to Egypt, Necho brought the prisoner, Jehoahaz with him. He then made Eliakim, another son of Josiah a puppet king instead of Jehoahaz. Eliakim’s name was changed to Jehoiakim.
There continued to be great mourning for Josiah in the land of Judah. Jeremiah instructed the people to mourn instead for the king, Jehoahaz who had been taken away and would never return. He warned the new king against greed and oppression of his people.
Habakkuk was a unique prophet in that instead of speaking for God, he questioned God. It is thought that he lived and wrote during the reign of Josiah or soon afterward. There have been evil people and nations on the earth since soon after the beginning. Through their devious methods, they have conquered others and amassed great control and wealth. The psalmist David questioned God about why He allowed that to happen. Habakkuk also had the same misunderstanding of God.
The Assyrians had been a dominant power for many years, but the evil Chaldeans (Babylonians) were even surpassing the Assyrians. Habakkuk asked God to explain why He was allowing a more wicked people than Judah to be His instrument of punishment.
God’s ways are not man’s ways. Man is on the earth for a brief moment in time and looks at the short-term picture. God, on the other hand looks at a broad scope and metes out His justice in His own time. Babylon did eventually pay for her evil.
Habakkuk concluded his message with a psalm-like prayer recognizing God’s glory, power and care for His people. “…The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.”
The date of Nahum’s prophesy is unknown, but was probably around 650 B.C. That date would follow Jonah’s earlier prophesy against Nineveh by about a hundred years. Nineveh, known as the bloody city was the capitol of Assyria, a ruthless and dominating world power who had controlled much of the area for hundreds of years. God had used them to administer His wrath against Israel several years earlier. However, that did not mean that He was pleased with the Assyrian people. He was not! It was Nahum’s commission to warn the Assyrians of their impending destruction.
Nahum received his message through a vision from God. He began by relating the immense power of God to the Assyrians. His power is shown by His wrath against those who are evil and through His goodness to those who are obedient to Him. He then began to describe in specific terms how God would deal with them. “The gates of the rivers are opened…” Those words were comforting to Judah as Assyria had been a threat to their security. Archaeological studies relate that the Tigris River overflowed and destroyed a large portion of the city’s wall and left it open for attack.
“Woe to the bloody city!” The prophet listed some of the vile attributes of Nineveh as he warned them of their doom. “‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts…” As Nineveh had done to those around her, the same fate would befall that great city. “You also will seek refuge from the enemy.” In the end, “All who hear news of you Will clap their hands over you…” God will have destroyed one of His tools, but there would be others.
God declared to Jeremiah that if he could find anyone who sought truth, He would pardon them. He was longsuffering and wishing that He could spare Judah. The prophet observed that the common people had refused to hear his words. He then pointed out that their leaders who should have known God’s way had also turned their backs on Him. Because they had forsaken the Lord, He informed the people of His fierce judgment upon them. The Babylonians were portrayed as wild beasts attacking and destroying their prey. Man may choose to ignore truth and obey a lie; however, that does not change the truth. Truth never changes.
Even though the destruction of Judah would be intense, God would not completely destroy the nation. There would be a remnant preserved to provide an avenue for the coming of His Son hundreds of years later.
As Jeremiah continued expressing warnings from God, he specifically mentioned Jerusalem and Benjamin. Benjamin was a part of Judah and Jerusalem. He described the disaster that would come from the north. With all of the warnings and details of their impending punishment from God, the people continued to ignore Jeremiah. God still would have spared them if they would have repented. They stated that they would not walk in “the old paths” nor listen to the warnings of the watchman’s trumpet. In the end, “People will call them rejected silver, Because the Lord has rejected them.”
The first two of the Ten Commandments were, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image…” Another commandment was, “You shall not commit adultery.”
God likened the idol worship of Israel and Judah to the sin of adultery. They, as God’s “wife” had conducted themselves as a wife who had left her husband and had embraced the life of a harlot. In His mercy, He had pled for Israel to completely turn from their idolatry in repentance and wholeheartedly return to Him. They did not. God was also pleading through Jeremiah the same plea for Judah to turn back to Him before it was too late.
Jeremiah painted a desolate picture of destruction and ruin in a land that had refused to repent and return to their God. That picture was of Judah and her cities that would lie in waste. So great would be Judah’s destruction that the prophet saw a land that was without form and void with black heavens as it had been before the beginning creation. Jeremiah took no joy in relaying his message of doom. “O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart!”
II Kin. 23:26, 27; Jer. 1:1-2:37
It is unclear as to the exact time that Jeremiah began his prophecy. His father was Hilkiah, a priest. He was possibly the high priest that was serving during the time that King Josiah was restoring true worship in Jerusalem. Some speculate that he may have been born during the thirteenth year of Josiah’s thirty-one year reign and actually began to prophesy several years later as Josiah’s reforms may have begun to crumble. He continued to prophesy until Judah was carried into Babylonian captivity.
As Moses had done many years earlier, being slow of speech, Jeremiah humbly objected to his call stating that he was a youth. God stated that He would provide what the prophet should speak and would be with him. Also like Moses, he accepted his commission and moved forward. Likewise, the Lord has provided His word for us in the Bible and we are to speak it—whether we are young or old.
Jeremiah’s mission was to purge by condemning the evil of the people and to rebuild by giving hope if they would repent and return to God. The picture of a boiling pot being poured out from the north signified the destruction of Judah by the northern Babylonian empire and other invaders from the north.
As the Christian life has its struggles with various persecutions, Jeremiah was faced with suffering. If he failed through dismay to speak God’s word, God would add to his dismay. If he did all that was commanded of him, everyone would become his enemy, “but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you…to deliver you.”
The Lord instructed Jeremiah to remind Jerusalem of the highs and lows of the wilderness wandering after their deliverance from Egypt. He pointed out the law/covenant that He had made with them on Mt. Sinai. God had delivered Israel/Judah from a land of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. They had shown their gratitude by turning from Him to worship the handmade gods of other nations.
God referred to Himself as a fountain of living waters and the false idols as broken cisterns that can hold no water. Instead of turning to Him for help, Judah had turned to other nations and to their gods. However, in times of deep trouble, they would turn to Him to, “Arise and save us.” God had reached the point that He said regarding their gods, “Let them arise, If they can save you in the time of your trouble…” The sins of the people would ultimately bring them into ruin with their hands upon their heads being led into slavery.