During 2015, at the evening services, I preached a series of sermons on the early chapters of the prophecy of Jeremiah. At the end of the series, I said that I would complete Jeremiah in these Easterly Bible readings. We began this series in April.
Thursday 1st June
God calls the people to turn back but it is clear they intend to follow their own plans rather than the will of God. The Lord responds by showing how irrational this decision of the people is. Even in nature there are certain regularities which we can expect but here is the chosen people rebelling against their God. God wants to bless them but instead they choose to fall under his judgement. No wonder that God says in verse 17, ‘I will show them my back and not my face in the day of their disaster’. A nation that turns its back on God will find that God turns his back to them. There are lessons here for Scotland.
Pray for the World Reformed Fellowship, of which the Minister is Vice Chairman. Ask that the WRF would have a global impact for good.
Friday 2nd June
This brings to an end what is the seventh message of Jeremiah and here we see two reactions. First, there is the reaction of Jeremiah’s enemies. Having heard Jeremiah pass on a word of judgement on the nation, their response is to plot against him and to ‘pay no attention to anything he says’. It is typical of the enemies of the righteous to ignore the message from God but they are prepared to go even further and seek his life. Second, we have the prophet’s reaction. He calls down judgement upon them. Those who faithfully declare the Word of God will find similar reactions today. Those who are quite confident in their own views and do not listen to what God says through his Word, will always resist the message of judgement.
Pray for David Scott, Minister of Inshes, as he hosts a Moderator’s reception tonight at the end of his year as Moderator of the Presbytery of Inverness. Give thanks for the way he has conducted the business of the Presbytery.
Saturday 3rd June
This is another visual illustration of what lies ahead for the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah is to buy a clay jar and take it to the valley of Ben Hinnom. This was the place where broken pottery was discarded. It was effectively the local rubbish dump. When he arrived there, Jeremiah was told to smash the pot he had just bought. This was intended to send a message. Just as the jar was smashed, so the nation would be smashed by their enemies because of their refusal to listen to God’s words. The message from God through Jeremiah is clear and consistent: then end is coming when they will be invaded and destroyed – and God will not help them.
Pray for Jack Macdonald in his work as pastoral assistant to the Rev Colin Sinclair, at Palmerston Place Church, in Edinburgh.
Sunday 4th June
Pashur, the priest, was the chief officer in the Temple. He objected strongly to Jeremiah’s message and so he blamed the messenger! He had Jeremiah beaten and placed in the stocks. Jeremiah’s response was to give Pashur a name which meant ‘terror on every side’. This underlined the fact that whatever Pashur thought, the Babylonians were coming and that attacking Jeremiah was not going to stop this. There were dreadful days ahead and Pashur himself would be seen to be a false prophet in the eyes of the whole community and of his own family. He was doomed to die in Babylon, like so many more. God’s messengers are often blamed, even today. Many faithful Christians have been attacked in our secular society just for saying what God tells us in his Word.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services in Church today and pray for Bill Flett as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 5th June
Jeremiah was feeling the pain of being a prophet of the Lord. He says, ‘the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’. Yet, when he tries to stop speaking, he finds that ‘his word is in my heart like a fire’. In other words, he cannot help but say what God has told him to say. There is pain when he speaks and pain when he refrains from speaking. He believes that there are many who are plotting against him and waiting for him to fall but ‘the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’. He goes on to praise God in verse 13 and then finishes by cursing the day he was born! He is truly conflicted, caught between a rock and a hard place. This passage serves to remind us that although Jeremiah was a prophet, he was also a man, a human being subject to the same suffering and weakness as the rest of us. He was in a dark place but God would see him through.
Pray for the Trustees of Covenant Fellowship, as they meet in conference call today, to reflect on the decisions of the recent General Assembly.
Tuesday 6th June
Zedekiah sends messengers to Jeremiah (including a different Pashur from the one of whom we read in the previous chapter). They ask Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord in the hope that he would rescue them. Jeremiah’s response is to repeat what he has said before: the Babylonians will be successful. Then God, through Jeremiah, sets before them ‘the way of life and the way of death’. The only way to survive was to leave the city and surrender because those who remained would be killed. This was not a great choice! Perhaps the most chilling words of the chapter come in verse 13, where God says, ‘I am against you’. This must have struck fear in their hearts. The God who had always been ‘for’ them, was now ‘against’ them. There was no hope of rescue. In a spiritual sense, God always lays before us ‘the way of life and the way of death’. We must choose.
Pray for the Minister as he attends a meeting of the Council of Assembly Strategy Group in Edinburgh today.
Wednesday 7th June
Jeremiah is told to go down to the palace of the king of Judah and to give him a message. Jeremiah was to tell the king the importance of ruling according to principles of justice and righteousness as laid down by God (there was something of this also in 21:11-14). He was to warn the king of the prosperity that would come if he acted rightly but also the judgement that would fall upon he and his house if he refused to do as the Lord required. The king of Judah was the successor of King David but he did not live as David lived. When the destruction had taken place and people asked why God had done this to his own people they are to be told, ‘they broke the covenant’. It is a fearful thing to turn away from God.
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson as they consider their next posting with Mission Africa.
Thursday 8th June
This passage speaks of the kings of Judah and what they did. Shallum was the son of good king Josiah, also known as Jehoahaz. He only reigned as king for a few months before being taken to Egypt where he would die in exile (see 2 Kings 23:31-34). His brother Jehoiakim was completely unlike his father. Josiah was a good and godly king but Jehoiakim was the opposite. Now the young king Jehoiachin will also go into exile, at the hands of the Babylonians. The most serious message was that none of his successors would sit on the throne of David. The unbroken succession of kings, father to son, since King David, was at an end. The people of Judah would no longer have a king, instead they would be ruled by the king of Babylon for seventy years. God’s judgement, when it falls, can last a long time.
Pray for the Girls’ Brigade and for the Highland Division AGM tonight. Give thanks for the many girls who are hearing the Gospel through GB and remember our own company in prayer.
Friday 9th June
Those who were supposed to be the shepherds of God’s people had utterly failed in their responsibility. They had scattered the flock and done great damage. God promises that one day he would gather the flock again and bring them back to Judah and Jerusalem. This is a prophecy relating to the return to the land, after the Exile in Babylon, under the leadership of Nehemiah and others. Then there is an even greater prophecy, that one day a ‘righteous branch’ in David’s line would come. The old kings had failed but this king would be called ‘The Lord our Righteousness’. This was a prophecy about the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, the king of kings. Then God would again bless his people.
Pray for Andrew and June as they begin three weeks of annual leave today, praying for rest and recuperation after a very busy few months.
Saturday 10th June
This is an oracle against the prophets who had consistently lied to the people and failed to teach them what God had said. Their lies had led people astray and their failure to speak the truth had left people without a word from the Lord. Now they were under judgement. God tells the people (verse 16) not to listen to them. The problem was that ‘They speak visions from their own minds’. In other words, as we read in verses 21-22: ‘I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds’. The servant of God must preach only what God has commanded.
Pray for Bob Matheson and the Open Doors team today. The summer is a time when many people come through the doors. Pray for opportunities to share Christ.
Sunday 11th June
There is more here on the false prophets. Whenever they spoke to the people they said, ‘this is the oracle of the Lord’ but it was not. As we read in verse 36, ‘every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God’. There are many in the church today, like these false prophets, who claim to speak for God but who have not been sent and who preach only from their own minds. Often, they will preach the direct opposite of the plain teaching of God’s Word and then pretend that God told them to say it. They might even put a religious veneer over it and say that Jesus is speaking to us today with a new message and new ideas and so we can disregard the teaching of Scripture. We must be on our guard against this attempt to make God contradict his own holy Word.
Pray for Fraser Turner as he takes both services in Church today. Pray also for the Gaelic service and for the service at Raigmore.
Monday 12th June
This vision of the two baskets of figs, one of very good figs and one of very bad figs, is God’s word to the people of Judah. It might be thought that those who remained in Judah or who had escaped into Egypt were the good figs and that those who had been taken into exile in Babylon were the bad figs but the opposite was true. The good figs were the ones taken away into exile because God intended by his grace to work in and through them and ultimately to bring them back to Judah, cleansed and renewed. God often surprises us!
Pray for the ‘Breakthrough’ group run by Derek Morrison, reaching out to those who have had alcohol or drug addictions. Pray that those who come will find Christ and see their lives transformed.
Tuesday 13th June
This statement by Jeremiah comes after he has been prophesying for twenty-three years. His message is that God is about to bring the Babylonians to attack Judah and will send them into captivity for seventy years. The king of Babylon is regarded as a ‘servant’ of God (verse 9) because he is carrying out the will of God. This, however, is not the end of the story. After the seventy years, Babylon and its king will be punished and Judah will be restored. In this we see the grace of God. He does not abandon his people for ever, rather he punishes them before restoring them. The Lord’s discipline is always intended and designed to lead to a good end. We should regard discipline in the same way (Hebrews 12).
Pray for the women who gather each Tuesday morning for Bible study. Ask that it might be a blessing to those who come, as they go deeper into God’s Word.
Wednesday 14th June
The vision here is of a cup filled with wine (the wine of God’s wrath) which, when the people drink it, makes them drunk and mad. This cup will be drunk by all the nations of the earth, not least the great empires of Babylon and Egypt, all who have ignored the word of the Lord given by the prophet of God. We might see in this passage something familiar to us. When a nation cuts itself free of God and ignores his law, the result is often moral chaos and anarchy. People do what is right in their own eyes and the whole world goes mad. In other words, having chosen to reject God, he gives them the freedom to destroy themselves. The description of the judgement to come, in verses 30-38, is truly terrifying. Any nation which turns its back on God is in great danger, even Scotland.
Pray for Martin Haworth of as he speaks tonight in church and tells us about the work of Latin Link, reaching out to men and women all over South America.
Thursday 15th June
Jeremiah preaches a sermon which brings a dramatic response. God told him what to say and even where to preach the sermon (in the courtyard of the Lord’s house). God makes a point of telling Jeremiah that he must not omit a single word of the message, it must be delivered exactly as it was given. Notice that the message contained the possibility of forgiveness. Even at this late stage, if the people turned back to God, he would relent of the punishment he intended to bring upon them. The response of the priests and prophets was to demand that Jeremiah be killed for preaching against Jerusalem. Happily, the people and the officials disagreed. They recognised that Jeremiah was a true prophet.
Pray for the Gathering this morning. Those who come enjoy the time of friendship and fellowship over tea and coffee. Pray for the team who run the morning.
Friday 16th June
Jeremiah is told by God to act out a message for the kings of the surrounding nations who happened to be visiting Zedekiah. All of them were concerned about the increasing power of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. Jeremiah was told to wear a yoke and to tell them that they would be under yoke to the Babylonians. More than that, if they refused the yoke of the Babylonians, they would die. The message is clear: serve the king of Babylon and live. These kings are not to listen to the prophets and others who will give them a different message because God Almighty has spoken and he is the creator and ruler of all things. There is, however, at the end of the chapter, another word of hope and promise. The day will come when God will restore Judah.
Pray for the work of Gideons and ask that, as they begin to go round schools and colleges this autumn, they will be well received and that the Gospels which are distributed will be read and will make a difference.
Saturday 17th June
Here we have a conflict between the true prophet of God (Jeremiah) and the false prophet (Hananiah). Hananiah denounced what Jeremiah had said and instead prophesied that the yoke of the king of Babylon would be broken within two years. Jeremiah appears to say that this would be excellent news, only it did not come from God. Hananiah, to make his point, tears the yoke from Jeremiah. In verses 12-14, the message from God is that if you break from the yoke of God, you will get a heavier yoke (iron not wood). In other words, resisting God’s judgement will only make it worse. The final message is to the false prophet, telling him that he would be dead within a year, as he was. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Pray for those in the congregation who are sick or housebound and for those in hospital or Care Homes. Pray for our new Pastoral Care team led by Kathleen Mackinnon and Agnes Chisholm.
Sunday 18th June
Jeremiah’s main concern was with the people of Judah and especially Jerusalem but he was also called to a wider prophetic ministry. Those who had already been taken into exile were, like the people of Judah, inclined to believe that their exile would be short and ten all would be well. Jeremiah writes to them and tells them the truth as he had received it from God. It would be a seventy-year exile, not the two years which Hananiah had prophesied. Jeremiah also warns them about their own false prophets in Babylon. He urges them to use their captivity wisely, to settle down, build houses and plant crops. If they do, they will benefit from the exile, however painful it might be. Here again we have the message of the sovereign providence of God in doing good to his people by dealing with their sin.
Pray for Fraser Turner, as he takes both services in Church today and for Donald MacVicar as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 19th June
The prophet Shemaiah wrote letters to the people of Judah, to the priests and to Zephaniah one of the leading temple priests. His intention is to oppose Jeremiah, having heard about his letter to the exiles. He urged the priests and people to arrest and punish Jeremiah. Notice, he does not confront Jeremiah directly, he goes behind his back and tries to arrange his downfall. Then God tells Jeremiah what to say, as we see in verses 31-32. He is to tell the people that God did not send Shemaiah. He is a false prophet and should not be believed. Moreover, God will act against him and his family and he will have no lasting legacy in the land. When people claim to speak for God when he has not sent them, they are living very dangerously.
Pray for the Council of Assembly meeting in Edinburgh today, asking that God will be with the chair, Dr Sally Bonnar and the secretary, Dr Martin Scott.
Tuesday 20th June
Now the tone of the prophecy changes. Jeremiah is told to write down what God says to him. This could conceivably refer to the whole book of Jeremiah but, coming here, it is more likely to refer to the message of chapters 30-31. Not only does the tone change but the audience changes. Until now, Jeremiah has been speaking to the people of Judah, the southern kingdom. Now he begins to speak of ‘Israel and Judah’, including the northern kingdom of Israel (see 1 Kings 12 for the story of the break-up of the kingdom). God promises to restore Israel and Judah, or at least the remnant of Israel (Jeremiah 31:7) and Judah and return them to their own land. This great promise must have helped to sustain the people during the years of exile. Exile was not the end, God would bring them home one day.
Pray for the Business Committee of Presbytery meeting this evening to prepare for the next meeting of Presbytery.
Wednesday 21st June
This chapter continues the vision of the return from exile. Once again God would be the God of all the clans of Israel. After all, he had loved them ‘with an everlasting love’ (verse 3). He would build them up, they would plant vineyards and they would enjoy the fruit. The Lord would ransom and redeem them (verse 11), he would draw together those he had scattered and there would be a time of rich blessing. The language used is reminiscent of the Exodus from Egypt. Just as God ransomed and redeemed his people from Egypt, so he would redeem his people from captivity in Babylon. The whole chapter is full of joy and rejoicing, which comes as welcome relief after so many chapters of judgement. God never forgot his people.
Pray for the Scottish Bible Society and for its Director, Elaine Duncan. Pray that many will read the Bibles it produces and distributes and so find Christ.
Thursday 22nd June
This is one of the most significant sections of the prophecy of Jeremiah. Here is God’s promise that one day he was going to make a ‘new covenant’ with his people, which would not be like the old covenant he made with his people, through Abraham and Moses. This covenant would be quite different and God’s law would be written on hearts and minds. We know from the New Testament that this new covenant was made in and through Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews deals with this new covenant in chapters 8 and 9 and then says, in Hebrews 12:24, that Jesus was the mediator of this new covenant. We also learn in the New Testament that this covenant was not restricted to the blood descendants of Abraham but to all who had faith in Jesus Christ.
Pray for Rutherford House and for the new Administrator, Healey Blair, from Northern Ireland. Pray that the House will be effective in helping people to think biblically and theologically.
Friday 23nd June
Jeremiah prophesies against the king and is then imprisoned by the king for doing this. Then God spoke to Jeremiah and told him to buy a field. To everyone around him, this must have seemed an absurd thing to do. It was becoming increasingly clear that Judah would soon be captured and destroyed by the Babylonians and the people killed or taken into exile. Jeremiah himself had prophesied that this was exactly what was going to happen. So why buy a field? People do not buy houses or land in times of war, when the imminent threat is that the houses or land are likely to be destroyed or captured by an enemy. The answer must be that this was a prophetic gesture. Jeremiah is reminding the people that, one day, the land would be restored to them by God. It would be laid waste and captured but this was only for a time. Better days were coming.
Pray for Israel, asking that God would bring to fulfilment the prophecies of Scripture and that Israel would come to recognise Jesus as messiah.
Saturday 24rd June
This prayer of Jeremiah after he had bought the field has much to teach us. It begins with a recognition that God is the sovereign creator of all things and that nothing is too hard for him (echoes of Genesis 18:14). The prayer goes on to recognise the many mighty acts of God and the fact that nothing goes unnoticed before him. Jeremiah gives thanks for the great things God did in delivering the people from Egypt, the great miracles and wonders. The prophet is aware of the current situation with the Babylonians ‘the siege ramps are built up to take the city’ (verse 24) but he also looks forward to the day of deliverance. All in all, this prayer reminds us of the greatness of God.
Pray for all the young people from our church who have gone away for work or college or university. Pray that God would keep them from harm and danger and that they would serve Christ wherever they are.
Sunday 25th June
God agrees that nothing is too hard for him (verse 27) but this does not mean that he can ignore sin and pass over judgement. The evil committed by Judah was extraordinary and the Babylonians will certainly come, as God’s agents, to enact judgement. There follows a catalogue of the sins of Judah. Everything from worshipping Baal to child sacrifice. The horror of a holy God at such flagrant sin is clearly revealed here. Despite many appeals and many prophets, the people turned their backs to the Lord and not their faces (verse 33). Despite this condemnation, however, verses 36-44 return to the theme of restoration after the Exile. God is not finished with his people. Not only will there be a new covenant, it will be an everlasting covenant (verse 40).
Pray for Fraser Turner as he takes both services today, including the Sunday School prize-giving. Pray too for Alex Stephen, as he takes the service at Raigmore, including the Ark prize-giving.
Monday 26th June
Jeremiah is still in prison when God comes to him here. He tells Jeremiah to call and he would answer. He also promises to open up and explain the deep mysteries, the ‘great and unsearchable things’ which Jeremiah did not know. True knowledge and wisdom are only to be found in God and he wants to teach us, if we will come to him in faith and in prayer, crying out for understanding. There is nothing more deeply satisfying than coming to a deeper understanding of the things of the faith through a closer acquaintance with the living God. In the verses that follow God repeats to Jeremiah the promise of restoration and the blessing that will follow. Jeremiah would not live to see these promises fulfilled but no doubt rejoiced in the promises of God.
Pray for the many people in the congregation suffering with cancer, of various types and at various stages. Give thanks for those who treatment has been successful. Remember especially those who are awaiting results of scans and other treatment.
Tuesday 27th June
In these verses the future blessing of the people of God is repeated but again, as in chapter 27, it looks beyond the return after the Exile to the time when the new, everlasting covenant would be established. There would be a new king in David’s line, ‘The Lord our Righteousness’. With retrospect and the benefit of the words of Jeremiah being quoted in the New Testament, we know that this refers to the triumphant coming of the king who is himself the Son of God as well as a king in David’s line. The return from Exile would be a triumphant time but it pales into insignificance beside the ultimate triumph of God in the Cross of Christ and the victory of the people of God in and through their Saviour.
Pray for the Word at One service today and also for the meeting of Inverness Presbytery tonight.
Wednesday 28th June
Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army would soon be at the gates. The end was near. God tells Jeremiah to go to King Zedekiah with a message. Although the Babylonians were going to destroy the city, he would be spared. He would be taken captive to Babylon but he would live and not die. Whether as a result of this news or not, the king then proclaims freedom for all the Hebrew slaves. In this, he was simply following the law of God which said that Hebrew slaves had to be given their freedom after having served for six years. Unfortunately, having agreed to this, the slave owners then changed their minds and refused to release the slaves. For God, this was one more example of the sin of this people and confirmed their impending disaster. God will not be mocked.
Pray for the Highland Theological College, for the staff and the students. Pray for Hector Morrison, the Principal, as he leads the institution.
Thursday 29th June
The Recabites were an extended family within the people of God who followed an ascetic lifestyle. They did not drink wine and sought to live a simple life. They were also nomads, refusing to plant crops but instead lived in tents, moved from pace to place and looked after flocks and herds. Their forefather Jonadab, son of Recab, had instructed them how to live and they had obeyed. Due to the situation with the Babylonians they had come into the town but they were not prepared to change their lifestyle, even for Jeremiah. God used the Recabites to send a message to the people of Judah. They had followed faithfully the word of their ancestor and had never turned aside from it. The people of Judah had been given instruction by God but they had failed to keep it. The Recabites were commended by God for their obedience.
Pray for the Macdonalds in Zambia and for the Raes with OMF in the Philippines. Pray that God will bless their work and give them encouragement.
Friday 30th June
Jeremiah is commanded by God to write on a scroll everything he had been told, not least about what would befall the people of Judah if they did not repent. He dictated all of this to Baruch, a scribe, who wrote it all down. God told Jeremiah to have it read to the people. Since he himself was forbidden from entering the temple, he sent Baruch with the scroll and he read it in the temple. When the king heard of this, he had it read to him piece by piece and, after each section was read he cut it from the scroll and burned it. To burn a prophecy given by God did not cause the king any anxiety at all but it marked his end. He was not the first or the last who has tried to destroy God’s Word but he failed, as others have done. God had Jeremiah dictate the message again on to a different scroll and so it was preserved. Those who ignore or undermine or seek to destroy the Word of God beware!
Pray for the Kirk Session meeting tonight and for the Preparatory Service thereafter. Pray that God will bless this communion week-end with an outpouring of his Spirit.