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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 21:11,12

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beginning in chapter 19, Jeremiah began to prophesy a dreadful judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. The nation was like a broken pot; it was no longer useful. Because of the sins of the kings and the people, Judah would fall and Jerusalem would be destroyed. The people of Judah were going to go into exile, and anyone who resisted would die.

This shouldn’t have surprised anyone who had been listening to Jeremiah’s words, but he explains it once again, this time king by king, all the kings since the death of Josiah. Yet the prophet holds out the possibility of repentance and rescue even now. Some commentators see this as a fruitless or hopeless attempt to avert disaster. But Jeremiah was right to offer the gospel. While there is life in a body, there is still hope for change. Even wicked King Manasseh repented in the end (2 Chronicles 33:11-13). Later, a Jewish author remembered this and wrote the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh, including the words: “You, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, and in me you will display your goodness. Unworthy though I am, you will save me because of your great mercy. And I will praise you continually all the days of my life. For all the armies of heaven sing your praise. Yours is the glory forever. Amen.” (verses 13-15).

11 Concerning the house of the king of Judah, this is the word of the LORD.

King by king, Jeremiah will deliver a message about all of Judah’s kings from his lifetime: He has already spoken to Zedekiah (Jeremiah 21:1-10), and soon he will turn his attention to Jehoahaz (also called Shallum, Jeremiah 22:10-12), to the wicked Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:13-19), and finally to Jehoiachin (nicknamed Coniah, Jeremiah 22:2-30). They are the last of the kings of Judah, no longer much like the lion that Jacob foresaw (Genesis 49:9). They are not like the great lion’s teeth (David) nor his proud mane (Solomon) or even his strong and powerful legs (Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah). What Nahum said against Nineveh could be spoken against Judah, too: “Where now is the lion’s den, the place where they fed their young?” (Nahum 2:11). These sons of Josiah were just the tail. Nobody is afraid of a lion’s tail, and that’s all that was left.

12 House of David, the LORD says,
Administer justice in the morning,
     and deliver the one who has been robbed from the hand of the
oppressor,
or my wrath will flare up like fire
     and burn so that no one can quench it
     because of the evil you have done.

To repent is to turn back to God, away from the direction sin takes us. The wrath of God—wrath that flares us “like a fire”—terrifies us. Jeremiah has shown us that hell is not just a place of physical suffering in brimstone and the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15), but also a place of mental and emotional grief, of unending sorrow and shame (Jeremiah 20:18). Our sins put us in line for this torment, but the grace of God calls us away. There is another way! There is another possibility! Trust in God, and show that trust with the way that you live. For the kings of Judah, this would take the form of justice and deliverance for the poor and the oppressed.

What kinds of actions should your repentance bring about? Is there something you should turn away from? Something you should seek help with? Is there an Eight Commandment sin in your life—some habit of gossiping or of always seeing the worst in someone? Is there a Fifth Commandment sin in your life—a habit of bullying, or a cycle of abuse you can’t seem to stop? Is there a Sixth Commandment sin in your life—something you don’t want to give up, and which you wish God would not condemn, but which amounts to sex outside of marriage? Is it even just a book you’re reading, or a movie you think you want to see? It’s dangerous because it tempts. Jesus said, “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:46). Too often we lead ourselves into temptation. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14).

Turn away from things or people who lead you to sin, and ask God to help you stay turned away. “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). Trust in your Savior, and know that in Jesus you have forgiveness, and peace.

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.