Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Punishment and Protection

Today's passages: Jeremiah 25:15-38, 36:1-32, 45:1-5, and 46:1-28.

A bit of context: the LORD is fed up with Israel and Judah, their kings and prophets, and all the idolatry they continue to practice. So He's sending captivity to His people. Warning them all along through Jeremiah that it's coming:

By the time Baruch had finished reading [the scroll of the LORD's message of coming captivity], they [Judah's officials] were badly frightened. . ."tell us how you got these messages. Did they come directly from Jeremiah?" His reputation proceeds him? Or maybe they truly have heard all he had to say on the LORD's behalf. . .just not believed it? Or were powerless to act on it?

So Baruch explained, "Jeremiah dictated them to me word by word, and I wrote down his words with ink on this scroll."

"You and Jeremiah should both hide," the officials told Baruch. "Don't tell anyone where you are!" Then the officials left the scroll for safekeeping in the room of Elishama the secretary and went to tell the king. (Jer. 36:16-20)

How arrogant they are, though:
Whenever Jehudi finished reading three or four columns, the king took his knife and cut off that section of the scroll. He then threw it into the fire, section by section, until the whole scroll was burned up. Neither the king nor his officials showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard. Even when Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah begged the king not to burn the scroll, he wouldn't listen.

Then the king commanded his son [and two other men] to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. But the LORD had hidden them.

God doesn't forget Baruch. Poor Barry must be terrified, in hiding with the hated-by-the-king prophet Jeremiah, in fear for his life. God has a word just for Baruch:

The prophet Jeremiah gave a message to Baruch son of Neriah in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, after Baruch had written down everything Jeremiah had dictated to him. He said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, 'I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven't I had enough pain already? And now the LORD has added more! I am weary of my own sighing and can find no rest.' Baruch, this is what the LORD says: I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don't do it! But don't be discouraged. I will bring great disaster upon all these people, but I will protect you wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!" (Jeremiah 45:1-5)

I love the way the LORD calls him by name, then quotes Baruch's own words back to him before He gives them this personal word. God does hear us--even though we're complaining.

And even though He doesn't owe them any explanation at all, the LORD explains how it will be--and why--with Israel:

"But do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel. For I will bring you home again from distant lands, and your children will return from their exile. Israel will return and will have peace and quiet, and nothing will make them afraid. Fear not, Jacob, my servant," says the LORD, "for I am with you. I will destroy the nations to which I have exiled you, but I will not destroy you. But I must discipline you; I cannot let you go unpunished." (Jeremiah 46:27-28)

God's justice and God's discipline coexist with God's protection.

Our finite human minds can't fathom this. We must simply believe and trust that His presence with us is enough.

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