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Bible: What Does Jeremiah 18-20 Teach Us About Divine Sovereignty?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Potter


A Lesson in Divine Sovereignty

Next, Jeremiah receives instructions to visit a potter (vv. 1-2).

After watching this man perform his craft, the prophet of God understands more fully Yahweh's sovereignty over Israel and over every other nation (vv. 3-6).

The object lesson reiterates the LORD's initial message to Jeremiah: "You will serve as My mouthpiece to speak to nations about their destiny" (cf. 1:10).

Here Yahweh announces that He would alter His determined actions toward a nation, for good or for ill, depending upon the behavior of that nation (vv. 7-10).

Acting upon this revelation, He directs the prophet to call Israel to repentance; “perhaps,” God says, "I might relent" concerning the disaster planned against the people (v. 11).

Sadly, the nation rejects the LORD's mercy, having become already too addicted to their evil, independent, and selfish ways (v. 12).

As the result of Israel's sin of abandoning their God (which the LORD comments is unheard of even "among the Gentiles" [v. 13; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1]), Yahweh promises to scatter them and "make their land desolate" (vv. 15-17).

[Two rhetorical questions prove Judah’s action is self-destructive (v. 14)].

Upon hearing these words, Jeremiah's adversaries conspire to discredit the prophet (v. 18; cf. Luke 6:7 for an example of how the Jewish leadership tried to find fault with Jesus, too.)

[It is interesting that the leaders in Jeremiah’s day also regarded themselves as faithful to God.]

After becoming aware of their schemes, the prophet prays that the LORD not only judge his enemies and their children with the sword and famine (vv. 19-21), but also provide no atonement for their sin against him (v. 23).

[How shall we judge Jeremiah’s outburst?]

The Valley of Hinnom


A Broken Flask and Tophet

Jeremiah 19

God teaches again by means of another object, this time an earthen flask (v. 1).

He wants Jeremiah to portray vividly the irremediable destruction that awaits Judah, because its people have sinned so grievously and have refused to repent.

The prophet takes the leaders to a place of infamy in Judah: Tophet, or the Valley of the son of Hinnom (v. 2), and presents them with an ear-tingling message of judgment in conjunction with the object lesson (v. 3).

Judah has committed numerous abominable acts (vv. 4-5); therefore, God pronounces doom and desolation upon its people.

Death by the sword, exposure of their corpses to predators, and cannibalism will transpire in Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 6-9).

At Yahweh's direction Jeremiah breaks the flask, symbolizing the fracturing of the nation; the city's homes will then become like Tophet: defiled (vv. 10-13).

Afterwards, the prophet returns to the temple from Tophet, and warns those present there of God's judgment upon them because of their obstinate disobedience (vv. 14-15).

Pashhur's Nickname

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Pashhur's Downfall and Jeremiah's Lament

Jeremiah 20

Jeremiah records his controversy with Pashhur, the temple's chief governor, who complained because the prophet was foretelling doom (vv. 1-6; cf. chapter 19).

Undaunted by a night in prison at the governor's order (v. 2), the man of God declares on the next day a personal message to Pashhur, renaming his adversary ''fear on every side" (Magor-missabib, Heb.).

This nickname alludes to the terror he would endure at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (v. 3).

Pashhur’s friends are destined to die before his eyes, and others will become captives. Jerusalem's wealth will fall into Babylonian hands; Pashhur himself will depart into exile and die in a foreign land (vv. 4-6).

[Cf. other appearances of Pashhur (chapters 21 and 38)].

The Weeping Prophet


Jeremiah's Outburst: Right or Wrong?

Do you condemn Jeremiah for his outbursts?

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Jeremiah's Complaint

Apart from issuing a brief imprecation toward his enemy (v. 12) and then praise to the LORD (v. 13), the prophet devotes the rest of this chapter to a lament of his life and ministry (vv. 7-18).

He believes that God deceived him into becoming His prophet, or perhaps had not offered him a choice in the matter (see 1:7, 8).

From the very beginning Jeremiah expected some kind of immediate response, but was taken aback by the people's derision and mockery (vv. 7-8).

To his dismay, he also discovered painful results when he attempted (in vain, it turned out) to restrain himself from speaking God's message (v. 9).

Either way, the prophet was miserable.

Mockers constantly harassed him, ridiculing his message, and they waited expectantly for his fall (v. 10).

Then suddenly he turns to the LORD as his defender, and asserts his belief that his enemies will suffer shame and everlasting confusion (v. 11).

He says, in effect, "If I have found favor in your sight, I want to see them fall" (v. 12).

Verse 13 appears to be Jeremiah's assurance that the LORD has indeed saved him from his enemies.

[Was this a post-facto statement in his own circumstances, or is the prophet just making a general conclusion about how God saves “the poor” from “evildoers”?]

Strangely, after his triumphant praise, the prophet laments regarding his birth, i.e., "Why, if I had to endure so much heartache in life, was I born?

Why did not or could not somebody have killed me before birth?" (vv. 14-18; cf. Job 3).

He curses both his birthday and the messenger who announced his "arrival" to his father (vv. 14-17).

[Surely Jeremiah suffered greatly. However, does he react righteously by patiently enduring it?]

© 2013 glynch1


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