During the month of July, we shall complete our readings in the prophecy of Jeremiah. Then in August we shall turn back to the New Testament and look at the letter to the Hebrews.
Saturday 1st July
Nebuchadnezzar had placed Zedekiah, a puppet king, on the throne of Judah. This changed nothing. Everything that we need to know about Zedekiah and his associates is there in verse 2: ‘Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet’. Despite this, he sends a message to Jeremiah: ‘Please pray to the Lord our God for us’. This is a situation with which we may be familiar. How many people do we know who pay no attention to God and his Word but, at the first hint of trouble, want us to pray for them? Jeremiah would have none of Zedekiah’s hypocrisy. Instead he tells him precisely what is going to happen to Judah.
This is our communion week-end. As we gather for prayer this evening, ask that God would hear us and bless our communion season.
Sunday 2nd July
Jeremiah had to leave the city to attend to some property matter but when he tried to leave he was arrested. He was accused of deserting Jerusalem in order to defect to the Babylonians. This was a ridiculous allegation but he was put in prison. Later, the king sent for him. He again asked if there was a word from the Lord. Although Jeremiah hated the prison and did not want to be sent back, he told the king exactly what God had said. Jeremiah was a true prophet, who did not tell lies or tell people what they wanted to hear. He spoke only the Word of the Lord. This is what every faithful preacher should do. Too often the message from God is watered down to make it palatable.
Pray for the Minister as he takes the communion service, the Raigmore service and the Thanksgiving service today. Pray that God would pour out his Spirit on us as we gather.
Monday 3rd July
Jeremiah calls on all the people to leave the city of Jerusalem and surrender to the Babylonians. He tells them that whoever stays will die but if they surrender their lives will be spared. His enemies regarded this as high treason and called on the king to put Jeremiah to death. The weak king allows them to do whatever they want and so they put Jeremiah in a deep mud hole. Jeremiah was no traitor. Rather, he was telling the people how to survive. God had made it clear that the Babylonians were going to be victorious and that God himself was against the people of Judah because of their sin. Jeremiah made it clear that to fight against the Babylonians was to fight against God and so was futile.
Pray for Jack Macdonald working as Pastoral Assistant at Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh. Pray too for former Probationers: Ross Macaskill, Scott McRoberts and Dougie Wolf.
Tuesday 4th July
Jeremiah still had some supporters. One of them, Ebed-Melech, was a servant in the royal palace. He is described as a Cushite. Other translations render this as ‘an Ethiopian’. He bravely goes to the king and tells of Jeremiah’s plight. He says, ‘My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet’. Did he know that the king himself had given these men permission to take action against Jeremiah? When the king heard the story, he ordered Ebed-Melech to rescue Jeremiah before he did. Was there a recognition, despite everything, that Jeremiah was a prophet of God? Clearly, the king did not want to be responsible for his death. The man’s conscience spoke to him.
Pray for Fraser & Dawn Jackson, who have recently met with the Mission Africa leadership team to discuss their next posting. Pray for clear guidance.
Wednesday 5th July
Zedekiah arranges a secret meeting with Jeremiah in the temple. He wants to know what God was saying to Jeremiah – even although he had already been told. He was clearly hoping for some reprieve for the city of Jerusalem. God, through Jeremiah, makes him a most generous offer, one he did not deserve. If the king will go out and surrender to the Babylonians, he and his family will be spared. If he refuses, a dreadful end awaits him. What we see here above all is the gracious providence of God. Despite Zedekiah paying no attention to God and his Word, despite him colluding with Jeremiah’s enemies, God offers him life rather than death. The king turns down this generous offer and seems only concerned that people would find out about his secret meeting with Jeremiah. The man was doomed.
Pray for Hector Morrison and all the staff of Highland Theological College, as they enjoy a summer break.
Thursday 6th July
Now the city of Jerusalem finally falls to the Babylonians. From verses 1-2 we can work out that this was in the year 587BC. The siege had been in place for 18 months but now the city wall is breached and the Babylonians come streaming in. Zedekiah, the king whom Nebuchadnezzar had put in place, tried to escape but was overtaken and captured. He watched as his sons were killed, along with the nobles of Judah. He himself had his eyes gouged out and was taken in chains to Babylon where he too would die. He had been given every opportunity (as had the people of Judah) to repent and turn back to God but had been concerned only about himself and his own power and safety. He gave no thought to God and paid the penalty. This is a warning to all of us.
Pray for all those who provide various kinds of service to our church, whether flower arranging, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, serving on a duty team or any of the myriad of tasks that need to be performed.
Friday 7th July
God, in his gracious providence protects and saves those who had been faithful to him. In doing so, God is able to use even the enemies of his covenant people. Nebuchadnezzar gave orders that Jeremiah was not to be harmed. He was to be released from house arrest and taken to his own home, among his own people. God then told Jeremiah to give a message to Ebed-Melech, who had rescued Jeremiah (38:7-13), that he too would be saved in the midst of the invasion and no harm would come to him. The message is that God vindicates those who are faithful to him. This is similar to the message of Psalm 91, especially verses 7-8. Trust in God and in his providence.
Pray for Florence Macleod and Scott Macaulay as they are married today in the East Church. Pray that God would bless them as they begin life together.
Saturday 8th July
Having been told in 39:11-18 that Nebuchadnezzar gave orders for Jeremiah to be freed from arrest and permitted to remain in Judah, we are now given more detail of what actually happened. Jeremiah, like many others, was already in chains and heading for Babylon when Nebuzaradan, the commander of the imperial guard, found him and released him. Jeremiah was given the option of going to Babylon or staying. Interestingly, Nebuzaradan told Jeremiah that the destruction of Judah and the impending captivity in Babylon was the work of God! Even this foreigner understood what most of God’s covenant people had failed to understand. Jeremiah chose to stay and support the people left behind in the land and also Gedaliah, the new governor, whom the Babylonians had put in place.
Pray for our organist Jim Fraser, for the Music Group and for the Multimedia Team who do so much to enrich and enhance our worship.
Sunday 9th July
Gedaliah was a good governor. His task was to be the representative of the Babylonians but also to speak to the Babylonians on behalf of the people left behind. These people, mostly poor, were later joined by bands of soldiers and by many of the people who had been scattered following the Babylonian attack on Judah, who now returned. The message of Gedaliah was clear ‘serve the king of Babylon’ and all will be well. This proved to be wise advice. In fact, God blessed them richly. As we read in verse 12: ‘And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit’. To ‘serve the king of Babylon and live’ cannot have been a welcome message but it was God’s will. Many a Christian since has found comfort in this idea, as they have lived in difficult circumstances while seeking to remain faithful to God.
Pray for the Minister as he takes the morning and evening services today, for Iain Macdonald as he takes the Raigmore service and for the Rev. D. A. Maclennan as he takes the Gaelic service.
Monday 10th July
Johanan son of Kareah and the other army officers, who were living under the protection of Gedaliah the governor, heard about a plot to kill him. They told him about it: ‘Don’t you know that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?’ But Gedaliah did not believe them. Johanan spoke to the governor privately and offered to go and find Ishmael and kill him but the governor would not hear of it. Everything we know about Gedaliah suggests that he was a kind and good man. He simply could not believe that such a plot was being hatched against him. In this instance, his refusal to take the plot seriously was a bad mistake, as we shall see tomorrow.
Pray for Sheila Murray, our church secretary, giving thanks for the way she has so quickly settled into the job.
Tuesday 11th July
In these verses, we are told that Ishmael was ‘of royal blood’. This means that he was a descendant of King David but clearly an evil man. His desire for power was such that he was prepared to destroy anyone in his path, even the governor who had been appointed by the king of Babylon. He killed Gedaliah and his men and then others who arrived later. It was a bloodbath. His desire for power was such that the law of God was unimportant to him. He was prepared to do anything for power, even murder. We regularly read in our newspapers of tyrants who achieve power by violence and murder but that this man was of the royal house of Judah makes his crimes much worse. He should have known that God would not honour such actions.
Pray for the housebound in the congregation and those in care homes. Ask that God would give them all that they need and especially that he would strengthen their faith and encourage them in Christ.
Wednesday 12th July
Ishmael and his men had captured many people and set off for safety. Then the men who had supported Gedaliah heard about all that Ishmael had done. As we read in verses 11-12: ‘When Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him heard about all the crimes Ishmael son of Nethaniah had committed, they took all their men and went to fight Ishmael son of Nethaniah’. Johanan and his men were successful and managed to liberate the captives being held by Ishmael. The problem was: what to do next? They knew that the Babylonians would be furious about the death of Gedaliah and that they
might find themselves blamed, so they begin to set off for Egypt. Happily, they soon realised the need for a word from God.
Pray for the two Prayer Meetings today, asking that God might hear our prayers for the church at home and overseas and that more people will come to pray with us.
Thursday 13th July
The remnant left in Judah come to Jeremiah to ask for help. They said, ‘Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do’. Notice they say ‘your God’ which is perhaps a hint about their own spiritual condition. They do, however, promise to act on whatever the Lord says through Jeremiah. Jeremiah promises to enquire of the Lord. He waits on the Lord for ten days and then gives them God’s word for them. The message is that they are to remain in the land and that God will be gracious to them. God also promises that he will cause Nebuchadnezzar to be gracious to them. This is a remarkable example of the gracious providence of God to a people who have abandoned his law and his covenant. God is always more gracious to us than we deserve.
Pray for the young people of our congregation who have left home to study or to work. Ask that God would watch over them and would sustain their faith.
Friday 14th July
Jeremiah here tells the remnant what will happen if they follow their original plans and go down to Egypt, where they believed that they would live in safety and comfort. In fact, the Lord makes it clear to them that if they do this and ignore his clear instruction to remain in Judah, they will die in Egypt. From a human point of view, Egypt might have seemed like a sensible escape option but not when God had forbidden it. Jeremiah knew that, although they had asked him to seek the Lord’s will, in truth they had already made up their minds to go to Egypt. That is why he says that they had made ‘a fatal mistake’. Having inquired of the Lord they had no excuse when they disobeyed him. Once we know the Lord’s will, we bring judgement on ourselves if we disobey.
Pray for Open Doors, asking that we might be able to help those who come in and also that the Gospel will change lives.
Saturday 15th July
Those who had asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord’s will now show their true colours. Having heard what God said through Jeremiah they reject it and call Jeremiah a liar, saying that the command to remain in Judah had not come from God but from his secretary, Baruch. As a result, they set off for Egypt in defiance of God’s word to them and they take all the exiles and even Jeremiah and Baruch with them. Notice what is happening here. These rebels could not believe that God would command something different from what they themselves wanted to do! We have seen this recently in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on the same-sex issue. Despite every reference to homosexual acts in Scripture being in agreement that such acts are sinful and contrary to God’s Word, the Assembly decided otherwise. They simply refused to believe that God did not agree with them and did not want what they wanted! Hence God’s Word was ignored.
Pray for the MacDonalds in Zambia, asking that God would protect them and their extended family from all harm and danger and that God would bless their work.
Sunday 16th July
When the rebels and their captives arrived in the ‘safety’ of Egypt, Jeremiah is told by God to issue another statement. Here we have another ‘acted parable’. His words and his actions were a prophecy of the destruction which would soon overtake Egypt. The Babylonians who had conquered Judah would also conquer Egypt and great destruction would take place. The rebels who had fled to Egypt for safety would be killed. Derek Kidner, a commentator on Jeremiah, refers to an ancient manuscript which says that this invasion of Egypt by the Babylonians took place in 568/7BC, although we know little of the details. The message, however, is very clear. God told them to remain in Judah. They refused and faced death and destruction in Egypt. The place they thought would be safe was not. For ourselves, we should conclude that the only safe place to be is where God wants us to be.
Pray for the Minister taking both morning and evening services today and for Derek Morrison as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 17th July
By this point in the story those who fled from Judah to settle in Egypt have scattered to various places. God sends Jeremiah to them with a final message. God reminds them of the destruction of Judah and reminds them of the sin and disobedience of the people which led to that destruction. He reminds them that he had sent many prophets to warn them against the sinful course of their lives and to call them to repentance. He condemns them for their continuing sin and idolatry in Egypt and tells them that all but a few fugitives will be utterly destroyed because of their sin and disobedience. The message is that God will not be mocked and those who persist in sin will face judgement, even when they think they have escaped to a place of safety.
Pray for the leaders of the Sunday School and the Ark Sunday Club. Pray for new leaders to take on the Youth Fellowship for this coming session.
Tuesday 18th July
Those to whom Jeremiah had spoken the Word of God now give their response. They will not accept what God has said. Instead they will continue to worship false gods and their idolatrous practices. They tell Jeremiah that worshipping the Queen of Heaven was a practice which flourished in Judah, a reference to the idolatrous worship which was practiced under Manasseh but wiped out by good king Josiah. Perversely, they suggest that everything went well when they engaged in that worship and so they will not now turn from it. They seem to be blaming God for their troubles and suggesting that their other ‘gods’ were more worthy of worship. Many people today do not worship God but still blame him for all their troubles: ‘why did God allow this?’
Pray for the Church of Scotland, following the ‘Call to Prayer’ issued at the General Assembly.
Wednesday 19th July
Jeremiah makes his final speech to the remnant from Judah now living in Egypt and responds to their statement that they would continue to worship false gods and engage in idolatrous practices. It would seem that they had not totally rejected God but rather wanted to worship other gods as well, alongside the worship of God. This was impossible and, as Jeremiah says in verse 28, ‘Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand – mine or theirs’. Sadly, there is an increasing pressure today to recognise the worship of other gods alongside the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Inter-faith services, hymns and prayers are becoming common, even at this past General Assembly. We must resist this and worship only the one true and living God, who has spoken through his Word.
Pray for the elders of the church. Ask that God would give them wisdom in all their work and decision-making. Pray especially for their pastoral care of the congregation.
Thursday 20th July
The rest of the book of Jeremiah consists of an appendix to the story of Jeremiah’s life (chapter 45), a series of prophecies and a final chapter on the Fall of Jerusalem. We do not have any further biographical information about Jeremiah and we do not know how his life ended. This chapter concerns Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe and secretary. The first verse shows that this message to Baruch took place much earlier in the story and is put here as a kind of appendix. Baruch was deeply upset and concerned by the impending judgement of God. God tells Baruch that his own sorrow was much worse because he was having to destroy his own people and the land he had given them. Baruch should be content with the knowledge that he would survive. This is a helpful reminder that, when we mourn the recent decisions of the Church of Scotland, God is mourning too.
Pray for Covenant Fellowship Scotland, as it works for the reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland and for Eric Smith, its Director.
Friday 21st July
The Old Testament prophets did not just speak to Israel and Judah, they were given prophecies from God about the surrounding nations. This is a prophecy against Egypt. This prophecy refers to the battle of Carchemesh in 605BC and is referred to in 2 Kings 24:7. Previously, there had been three great empires: Babylon, Assyria and Egypt. Seven years before, the Assyrians had been defeated by the Babylonians. Now the Egyptians suffer the same disaster. The message is that God is the sovereign Lord of the whole world and he will judge the nations, just as he judges his own covenant people.
Pray for the Deacons of the church. As they deal with property and financial matters, ask for wisdom and discernment.
Saturday 22nd July
This is a prophecy concerning the Philistines, the great enemy of Israel. During the days of the kings of Israel, especially King David, there were many battles between Israel and the Philistines. This prophecy describes the fall of the Philistines. Jeremiah recognises that this destruction of the Philistines is an act of the judgement of God but he expresses his desire to see an end of war in verse 6: ‘“Ah, sword of the LORD,” you cry, “how long till you rest? Return to your scabbard; cease and be still.”’ At the same time, he recognises that God cannot end his judgement until it is completed: ‘But how can it rest when the LORD has commanded it, when he has ordered it to attack Ashkelon and the coast?’ Once God’s judgement on a nation has begun it must continue until the Lord has finished his work.
Pray for those in the congregation who are sick, at home or in hospital. Pray that God would bring healing.
Sunday 23rd July
Now we have a prophecy against Moab, one of Israel’s neighbours, who had been in regular dispute with Israel. This chapter is very similar to the prophecies we find against Moab in Isaiah 15 and 16. As we see from verse 1, this message comes from ‘the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel’. Nations which had turned their back on God now find that he is the sovereign Lord and that he is acting against them. Some nations try to ignore God and his law but a time comes in the life of every nation when there is an accounting before God. This is a valuable lesson which needs to be heard by the leaders of our own nation (leaders in both church and state).
Pray for the Minister taking both morning and evening services today and for Bill Flett as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 24th July
The principal difficulty with Moab was arrogance, in thinking that they knew better than God how they should live. We see that particularly in verses 29-30: ‘We have heard of Moab’s pride – her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and arrogance and the haughtiness of her heart. I know her insolence but it is futile, declares the LORD, and her boasts accomplish nothing’. In the run-up to this recent General Election, there has been a great deal of arrogance from every party. An arrogant dismissal of every single policy of every other party, an arrogant insistence that they and they alone know what is good for the country. Yet there has been no humility before God and no recognition that it is righteousness which exalts a nation. Just like Moab.
Pray for the Holiday Club preparation meeting this evening as we learn the songs, go over our various responsibilities, set up the Community Centre and pray.
Tuesday 25th July
The Ammonites are here found guilty and judged because of their encroachment on Israel’s territory. They were also guilty of worshipping and serving the god Molech. What we should notice, however, is that this judgement is temporary. As we see in verse 6, God promises to ‘restore the fortunes of the Ammonites’ at some point in the future. We see that same message in 48:47 in respect of Moab. In other words, judgement is temporary and is tinged with mercy. This was the prayer of Habakkuk 3:2: ‘in wrath remember mercy’. As our nation progressively moves away from the plain teaching of God’s Word and elevates other ideas to the status of principles, judgement will inevitably come. We must pray that afterwards, there will be mercy and deliverance.
Pray for the first day of the Holiday Club. Pray for the leaders and young helpers and ask that the team would work well together.
Wednesday 26th July
Now the Word of the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah turns to the Edomites. The prophecy of Obadiah is also concerned with Edom and there are many similarities in thought and language with this section of the chapter. Edom had been a proud and powerful nation and had struck terror into the hearts of their enemies but all that is about to change. As we read in verses 15-16: ‘“Now I will make you small among the nations, despised among men. The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks, who occupy the heights of the hill. Though you build your nest as high as the eagle’s, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord’. Now Edom will be afraid and everyone will pass by and mock because it will be destroyed. Once again the message is clear: God is not mocked and those who stand against him ill fall.
Pray for the children coming to the Holiday Club. Ask that God would open their hearts to understand and believe the message of the Gospel.
Thursday 27th July
In these verses, we have prophecies against Damascus, capital of Syria (23-27); against Kedar (28-33) and against Elam (34-39). The most striking point in these verses is the personal pronoun used for God in his work of judgement. Although some of the judgement came through God using the Babylonians, nevertheless God indicates that he himself was the instigator. So in verse 27, ‘I will set fire to the walls of Damascus…’; in verse 32, ‘I will scatter to the winds…’; in verse 35, ‘I will break the bow…’; in verse 36, ‘I will bring against Elam…’ and several more references which are similar. Even when God uses an agent to actually inflict the judgement (the Babylonians) he asserts himself to be the author and instigator of the judgement.
Pray for the practical side of the Holiday Club, for the administrative, musical, practical, technical and stage work which makes it all possible.
Friday 28th July
Throughout this book we have seen how the Babylonians were to be used by God to bring judgement on God’s people in Judah, because of their sin. In these past few chapters we have seen how that Babylonian empire defeated other surrounding nations as well. Now, in chapters 50 and 51, the tables are turned and Babylon itself falls under the judgement of God. God brought the Babylonians against his people in order to bring them back to himself. Judgement (or fatherly discipline) is intended for a good purpose. Here in verses 4-5 we learn of the success of this policy: ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces towards it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten’. This is a wonderful prophecy of restoration.
Pray for the Holiday Club barbecue tonight and ask that God would give opportunities to share the Gospel with the families who come.
Saturday 29th July
Babylon had been used by God to bring his judgement on other nations, including his own covenant people. Now finally, Babylon has served her purpose and she herself will fall. This is what we see in verses 4-8: ‘They will fall down slain in Babylon, fatally wounded in her streets. For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD Almighty, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel. Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the LORD’s vengeance; he will pay her what she deserves. 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’. God had not abandoned his covenant people, despite their sin. Now their time of suffering is over and they will return to their land.
Give thanks for the week of Holiday Club, praying that the seeds sown in young hearts would come to fruition and souls would be saved.
Sunday 30th July
Jeremiah’s words end with chapter 51. Here we have a brief historical summary, similar in content to what we find in 2 Kings 24-25. This is a description of the dreadful consequences for the covenant people, of their disobedience to God. There are warnings here for us. We should never take for granted our standing before God as his covenant people, nor should we presume upon his good favour if we fall into sin. The message of this book is that God is a holy God who cannot bear sin. The other lesson is that God does what he says he will do. The scribe who added this chapter to the words of Jeremiah was no doubt showing that Jeremiah’s prophecies were reliable and that they had come true. Prophecies coming to pass are evidence of the sovereign control of God over all things.
Pray for the Minister as he takes the morning service and the Raigmore Holiday Club service. Also for Derek Morrison as he takes the evening service.
Monday 31st July
The book ends with a more positive note. Jehoiachin, king of Judah is released after 37 years in prison, is given a seat of honour in the Babylonian palace and is provided for throughout the rest of his days. This is perhaps a foretaste of what would happen to the rest of the exiled people of Judah, some 30 years later. Scripture tells us that a day would come when, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and others, the people would be brought back to Judah and would rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Judgement would be over and a time of peace would follow until the day when messiah came and God’s ultimate purpose would be fulfilled.
Pray for God’s blessing on the worship and witness of our congregation. Ask that he would help us to look to the future with confidence, trusting that he is the same, yesterday, today and forever.