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Judgment and Mercy: From Jeremiah
Judgment and Mercy: From the Book of Jeremiah
I have been meditating on the book of Jeremiah. Why was such a large book written? Could it not have been shorter? What is its importance? What is the key message of this book? Why does the book end the way it does?
It is no doubt a book of judgment. I believe we have to experience judgment or chastening. It is better to be judged in this world, than in the next. Self-reform is of no use. We need to go through a deep inward experience of the cross. Only then can we realise the wickedness of our own hearts, Jeremiah 17.9. We cannot set right our own hearts; they have to undergo the experience of the inward cross. Then will we learn to fear God. And it is the fear of God that will bring us to wisdom. God is a practical God, and our Christian life here on earth is a practical life. We may mock the Puritans and those who seek to live holy and God-fearing lives. But let us remember: ‘Without holiness we cannot see God’ Heb 12:14.
Jeremiah's message to the people of Judah and Jerusalem was that they should go into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God sent to chastise the people of Judah for their sins. Jeremiah warned that the Jews should not seek shelter in Egypt. In fact, Jeremiah prophesied that they would be cursed if they fled to Egypt, but blessed if they went into exile in Babylon. What a message! It is very difficult to understand. But God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways. Isa 55:8,9. As the poet William Cowper said, ‘God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform!’
Why did God want His people to go into captivity? 70 years in Babylon! The land must have her rest, 7 x 10 times! Surely there must be some deep meaning here. The Lord says, 'When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfil My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.' Jeremiah 29.10: And the Lord goes on to declare that the fortunes of the tents of Jacob will be restored; their captivity will be turned. Jeremiah 30.18, 19; 31.4-14.
The last segment of Jeremiah, i.e. chapter 52.31-34, is a wonderful story of God’s mercy. It shows how God's power of resurrection has to work to deliver His people. Here is Jehoiachin, king of Judah, 37 years in exile, in captivity, and then one day, in a marvellous manner, he is released, his garments are changed and his throne is set high among the kings in Babylon, and he dines in the presence of the king of Babylon, and he is given a daily allowance for all his needs. What does it mean?
We cannot rectify ourselves; neither can we repent of our own accord. Our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We need to be broken. We need to go into the experience of captivity, the experience of the prison, the experience of being 'shut up' to God. It is the experience of death, burial and resurrection; the experience of the inward cross. It is only by such experience we come to know God, we come to fear God, we come to trust in Him at all times, and, yes, we come to love Him and experience His amazing love for us.
Jehoiachin was under a curse [Jer 22.30], but here he is blessed. The man declared to be childless bears children, seven of them! [1 Chron 3.17-18].He becomes the grandfather of Zerubbabel. He is in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew chapter 1. He is redeemed. He experiences the resurrection power of God in Jeremiah chapter 52.31-34.
What is that daily diet (KJV) or daily allowance mentioned in the last verse? We have to depend on the Lord for His daily allowance, day by day. We must experience God's sufficiency for every daily situation and crisis, just as the manna was sufficient for the daily needs of the Israelites in the wilderness.
© Roland N Oliver/Tan Pratonix