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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 22:20-23

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

20 Go up to Lebanon and cry out.
      Lift your voice in Bashan.
Cry out from Abarim,
  for all your lovers have been destroyed.

There are two Lebanons in this passage. Here in verse 20, Jeremiah is talking about the literal country of Lebanon to Israel’s northwest, opposite the land of Bashan to the northeast. Lebanon was known for its towering evergreen trees (Judges 9:15), and Bashan for its excellent pastureland (Amos 4:1). The Abarim was a cluster of mountains overlooking the Jordan valley in Moab (Numbers 33:47,48). Moses himself looked down from one of those peaks to see the Promised Land before he died (Deuteronomy 34:1).

Here the people who might have been mourning for Jehoiakim are told to mourn instead from the highest peaks north, east and west. They are mourning because their lovers (the pagan Canaanite nations that might have helped them) were destroyed.  But by mentioning these places, the Lord also uses Jeremiah to remind Judah of the way they had been blessed in the past.

21 I spoke to you when you were at peace,
      but you said “I will not listen.”
This has been your way since your youth.
  You have never listened to me.

How many times had Jeremiah delivered this message to Judah? God’s people were not listening to God anymore. Didn’t that mean that they were no longer God’s people? What did they expect would happen to them?

22 Your shepherds will be herded by the wind.
      Your lovers will go into exile.
Then you will be ashamed and humiliated
  for all your evil.

The shepherds of Jerusalem and Judah were her spiritual leaders and also her kings and nobles. Now they were taken away, “herded by the wind.” Some were gone, exiled, and others had been killed. So were Judah’s lovers, the false gods they had fallen in with like a wayward spouse forgetting her vow to be faithful. In this case, those false god lovers also represented the other nations that embraced them (nations Judah had once had treaties with), so besides the leaders of Judah there were the leaders and people of Egypt, Assyria, Moab, Ammon, Lebanon, Edom, and the other nations already or soon to be crushed by Babylon.

23 You who live in Lebanon,
      you who make your nest in the cedars,
how you will groan when labor pains come upon you,
  pains like those of a woman in labor!

This second Lebanon is the palace in Jerusalem known as the “Forest of Lebanon.” Solomon built this in the days when he was also building the temple (1 Kings 7:2-6). It was 150 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high—perhaps five stories—with a roof supported by four rows of fifteen cedar columns supporting cedar beams, all from Lebanon. It also had high windows on all four sides, placed in clusters of three, and below these were matching doors also in clusters of three on each side. It also had a magnificent portico or exterior covered walkway (a colonnade) 75 feet long and 45 feet wide. This palace and the other fabulous houses of Judah were going to burn. A final “nest in the cedars” would be no defense at all to the Babylonian fire that was on its way, no matter how beautiful the carving.

From the blessings of the surrounding mountain ranges to the blessings of their beautiful cities and palaces (from Lebanon to Lebanon), Judah had constant reminders of God’s grace. But they turned away from it all and forgot who those blessings had come from.

In another age, God had sent Judges to rescue his people when they were harassed, helpless and caught up in their sins. But like the rest of Judah’s great men, the Judges were gone. Judges, kings, prophets, priests—who would rise up to help them? Judah had turned away, prying themselves away from God’s loving embrace, and now the Lord was letting go. No more Judges or kings would rise up. A few priests would carry on their line, and after Jeremiah there would be only a handful of prophets, until one great judge would finally come, a prophet, priest and king all together in one Savior. The answer to all of Judah’s troubles would be born in Bethlehem. His life would be threatened by the Israel’s king. He would be rejected in his home town of Nazareth, rejected in Capernaum, rejected in Jerusalem itself. He would be scorned and plotted against by the High Priest. He would be jeered by the people of David’s city. They would send him outside the city walls to be treated worse than a donkey; they would crucify him. But in that terrible act, Jesus would atone for the sins of the world. All these sins of Judah and Jerusalem were washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God.

His blood washed away the guilt of all your sins, too. Consider, today, as you wrestle with misunderstandings and disagreements and grudges and stubborn, foolish friends, that they are forgiven children of God, too. And so are you. What can you do to end the fights and hard feelings in your life? How can you live in a way that keeps Jesus before your eyes? Pray that God would help you keep your Savior front and center with everything you say and do.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.