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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 46:21-23

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, December 6, 2014

21 The mercenaries in her ranks are like fattened calves.
      They are turned and they flee together.
They did not stand,
  for the day of disaster has come upon them,
  the time for their punishment.

The Greek historian Herodotus said that the Egyptians were joined by mercenaries from Asia Minor, including Ionians and Carians (Book II, 152) numbering 30,000 (this number might be disputed, Book II, 163). These mercenaries were “foraging in the plain” (the Nile delta) and Pharaoh Hophra decided to hire them rather than drive them off, giving them land and pay. But once they got what they wanted from Egypt, these hirelings abandoned Hophra and sailed for someplace else. Jeremiah’s term, “they are like fattened calves,” has a double meaning. They were well-fed by Hophra, but they were also fattened up for slaughter.

22 Egypt will sound like a serpent,
      for the enemy will advance as an army.
It will come against her with axes,
  like men who cut down trees.
23 They will cut down her forest, declares the LORD,
      though it is impenetrable,
even though they are more numerous than locusts,
  even though they are innumerable.

Jeremiah pictures Egypt like a snake driven out of its nest by woodcutters. It can’t do anything except hiss at them while they cut down the forest. The serpent was an emblem of Egypt and appeared on most versions of the Pharaoh’s crown and many other royal symbols. The Babylonians would attack Egypt, and even though Egypt thought that it was “impenetrable,” “more numerous than locusts” and had a nation so vast as to be “innumerable,” Babylon would be victorious. The time of the Pharaohs was fast coming to an end, and after the Babylonian conquest, Alexander the Great would establish the Greek government that would last for centuries.

The Lord’s threats might seem distant and weak to unbelievers, especially when the unbeliever is set in his or her sin and seems to have no worries. But age and circumstances change. Old prejudices come back to haunt anyone who hides them deep in their hearts—perhaps we are seeing the beginning of the end of racial tensions at this very moment in our country. Old prejudices will not be tolerated any longer, and that’s a good thing. The same is true of sexual and domestic violations, too long ignored. But let these things be a warning. Old unbelief and sinful violations of every kind, will not be ignored by God, either. Just as many people are being brought to justice for disregarding the humanity of their fellow man, so also God will bring to justice anyone who disregards the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. Where are the Pharaohs today? Where, unbeliever, will you be tomorrow? The Pharaohs’ memorial pyramids are crumbling in the desert. Those who forsake God will not fare so well. “Woe to you, Korazin!” Jesus said, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than you” (Luke 10:13,14). After that, Jesus’ disciples came and told him that they had been driving out demons in his name. He answered: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes” just as the Babylonians were given the authority by God to trample the Egyptians like snakes. “However,” Jesus added, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

What a gracious God we have, who forgives sin and sets a place for us. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.

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.