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Notes on Jeremiah

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JEREMIAH

1:1-19 - To understand Jeremiah’s story, we must look ‘behind the scenes’: ‘The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”’ (4-5). To understand our own story, we must go even further back - ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight’. We must never forget the words of Jesus: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last’ (Ephesians 1:3-4; John 15:16). We’re not to be ‘on the surface’ people. We’re to be people who have seen ‘behind the scenes’, people who have caught a glimpse of the eternal God and His eternal purpose for our lives.

2:1-19 - Jeremiah’s message was not popular. He spoke to the people about their ‘sins’. They had turned away from the Lord. They had chosen to go their own way (13). He invited them to think about what their wrong choices were doing to them: ‘Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way?’ (17). Jeremiah left the people in no doubt about where their wrong choices were leading them - ‘“Your own evil will punish you, and your turning from Me will condemn you. You will learn how bitter and wrong it is to abandon Me, the Lord your God, and no longer to remain faithful to Me”, I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken’ (19). This was not what the people wanted to hear. It was what they needed to hear. It’s still what we need to hear today!

2:20-37 - ‘Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble!’ (28). The man-made ‘gods’ cannot ‘save’. They cannot even begin to compare with ‘the Lord’ - ‘the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:28). There is no comparison between God and the gods - ‘I am God, and there is no other’. The outcome of the conflict between God and the gods is never in doubt. For ‘all the makers of idols’, the future holds nothing but ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’. God calls us to a much better and brighter future. ‘Saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation’ - This is the great and glorious future which awaits all who obey God’s call to salvation: ‘Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 45:15-17,22).

3:1-25 - God calls us to ‘return’ to Him (14,22). He calls us to make our response to Him. He invites us to say, ‘Yes, we will come to You, for You are the Lord our God’ (22). How are we to come to the Lord? We are to come to Him, confessing our sins - ‘We have sinned against the Lord our God’ (25). We are to come to Him, trusting Him to save us - ‘Surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel’ (23). ‘Return’ to the Lord - There is nothing more than important than this. Think of the blessings the Lord gives to those who return to Him - (a) He is ‘merciful’ to us - ‘He does not treat us as our sins deserve’ (12, Psalm 103:10); (b) We become His children, calling Him ‘Father’ (19; Galatians 4:6); (c) He ‘cures us of our backsliding’ - ‘In Christ’, we become ‘a new creation’ (22; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

4:1-18 - ‘If you will return, O Israel,... then the nations will be blessed...’ (1-2). We are not only to seek blessing for ourselves. We are to pray that others will be blessed also. The blessing of God is not to be kept to ourselves. It is to be shared. We are not to be small-minded people - ‘What will I get out of it?’. Jesus said to His first disciples, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. This is still His Word to us today. We cannot rest content with being an inward-looking Church. Christ has given us a worldwide mission: ‘You will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’. We are not left to face this great task on our own. Christ says, ‘I am with you always’. We do not take up this great challenge in our own strength. Christ says to us, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

4:19-5:9 - ‘One disaster follows another. The whole land is ruined... My people are fools. They don’t know Me... They are experts in doing wrong, and they don’t know how to do good’ (20,22). We read the daily news. We wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’. We ask, ‘Where will it all end?’. Are we to give up hope? No! We must learn to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. We must learn to look to the Lord - ‘the God of hope’. He says to us, ‘There is hope for your future’. Do you feel like things are just going from bad to worse? Remember God’s Word: ‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’. ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (29:11; 31:17; Romans 15:13).

5:10-6:8 - ‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and My people love it this way’ (31)! The people were happy to listen to the ‘prophets’ - so long as their preaching wasn’t too challenging. They were happy to attend the services conducted by the ‘priests’ - so long as nobody expected them to change their way of life. The last thing they wanted was ‘prophets’ and ‘priests’ who took God’s Word seriously. Jeremiah was exactly what they didn’t want! He was serious about preaching the Word of God. He was serious about living in obedience to God’s Word. He wasn’t popular. He didn’t give the people what they wanted. Jeremiah was exactly what the people needed - a prophet who would keep on challenging them to ‘get real’ with God.

6:9-30 - ‘Their ears are closed... The Word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it’ (10). Jeremiah must have felt like he was ‘hitting his head off a brick wall’. So few people showed any real interest in hearing and obeying the Word of the Lord. It seemed like God’s Word was ‘going in one ear and out the other’. It would have been so easy for Jeremiah just to ‘settle down’, to start ‘taking it easy’. This was what so many of the ‘prophets’ and ‘priests’ had done: ‘They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace”, they say, when there is no peace’ (13-14). This was what Jeremiah refused to do. Jeremiah made his choice. We must make our choice. Will we choose to be faithful to God or will we settle for being popular with those whom ‘the Lord has rejected’ (30)?

7:1-8:3 - ‘Stop believing these deceitful words, “We are safe! This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”’ (4). For many, the place of worship has become more important than the Person we worship. They talk a lot about ‘the Church’ - but they never speak of Christ! They love to see ‘the Church’ looking good - but they’re not so concerned about what ‘the Lord sees’ when He ‘looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7)! Their talk is so self-centred - ‘I love my Church. I never miss my Church. I always support my Church’. There is a great deal of ‘I’ in this kind of talk - but Christ is conspicuous by His absence! ‘Look at what I have done for my Church’ - ‘Stop believing these deceitful words’. Let Christ take the place of ‘I’: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).

8:4-22 - ‘Wise people are put to shame, confused, trapped. They have rejected the Word of the Lord. They don’t really have any wisdom’ (9). Some people think they’re smart. They’re wise in their own eyes. They ‘know it all’ - so they think! They’ve an answer for everything - except the most important question, the question of salvation: ‘What must I do to be saved?’. They know so much - yet they know so little that really matters! ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (20) - Some people think they’re smart. They’re getting on in the world. They’ve no time for God. They’re too busy enjoying all the pleasures of this world. When this world is ‘past’ and its pleasures have ‘ended’, where will we be? - ‘What good will it do you if you gain the whole world - and lose eternal life?’ (Matthew 16:22).

9:1-26 - Jeremiah speaks of those who are ‘circumcised only in the flesh’. They remain ‘uncircumcised in the heart’ (25-26). Paul tells us that ‘not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’. Salvation is not a matter of outward conformity to religious rituals. What we need is ‘circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit’ (Romans 9:6; 2:28-29). Jesus put it this way: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7). Many people have been ‘brought up in the Church’, but they’ve never opened their hearts to Christ. They’ve heard the Word of God preached many times, but they haven’t been born again through the power of ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our religious rituals mean nothing if, in our hearts, we remain unconverted: ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).

10:1-25 - ‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King’ (10). Can there ever be anything more important than worshipping the Lord? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question! Very often, our lives gives a very different answer. We have taken our eyes off the Lord. We have forgotten that He is the true and living God. We sing the words, ‘O Lord, Thou art my God and King... Each day I rise, I will Thee bless...’ - but they have a hollow ring about them! Here’s a prayer to help you to make a real commitment of your life to the Lord: ‘Teach me to live, day by day, in Your presence, Lord... Teach me to praise, day by day, in Your Spirit, Lord... Teach me to love, day by day, in Your power, Lord... Teach me to give, day by day, from my wealth, O Lord...’ (Church Hymnary, 346; Mission Praise, 627).

11:1-23 - God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’ (7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’ (38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual - ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ - , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life - not just ‘never missing a service’!

12:1-17 - ‘“If any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it”, declares the Lord’ (17). We must not look out to the world and say, ‘That’s what’s happening “out there”’. We must look into our own hearts. We must ask, ‘What’s happening “in here”?’. We are to pray, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart’ (Psalm 139:23). When the searchlight of God’s Word begins to shine on our lives, it becomes clear that ‘all is not as it seems’: ‘They speak well of You with their lips, but their hearts are far from You’ (2). Our situation seems hopeless. We cannot change ourselves: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (13:23). There is a Word of hope. We can be changed by the Lord: ‘I will give you a new heart’ (Ezekiel 36:26).

13:1-27 - ‘These wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them will be... completely useless’ (10). Are you on the way to becoming ‘completely useless’? Each of us must think about what’s been happening in our lives? - ‘Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His Word? What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their memory still! But they have left an aching void the world can never fill’. We need to pray for real change. We need to pray for ‘a closer walk with God’: ‘Return, O Holy Dove!... The dearest idol I have known... Help me to tear it from Thy throne, and worship only Thee. So shall my walk be close with God...’ (Church Hymnary, 663).

14:1-22 - In ourselves, there is sin - ‘O Lord... we have sinned against You’. In the Lord, there is salvation - ‘O Lord our God... our hope is in You’ (20,22). In the Lord, there is no sin - ‘You are too pure to look on evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). In ourselves , there is no salvation. We are ‘spiritually dead because of our disobedience and sins’. We need to be ‘made alive’. How can this happen? It is not something we can do for ourselves. The new birth can only be received as a gift from God. We must stop trying to save ourselves. It cannot be done. Salvation cannot be earned. It must be received as a gift from God. It must be received by ‘faith’. We must look away from ourselves to Christ. In Christ, we see ‘God’s great love for us’. Through receiving Christ as Saviour, we are ‘born of God’ (Ephesians 2:1,4-5,8; John 1:12-13).

15:1-21 - Some of our problems come from outside of ourselves. Other people cause problems for us - ‘This people will fight against you’ (20). Some of our problems come from within our own hearts. Our own sins cause problems for us - ‘Put to death what is earthly in you...’ (Colossians 3:5). There are ‘fightings and fears within’. There are ‘fightings and fears without’. We are ‘tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt’. Tell the Lord all about it. Tell Him how it really is. ‘Just as I am’ - This is how we must come to the Lord. Our ‘fightings and fears’ do not simply disappear the moment we pray, ‘O Lamb of God, I come’ (Church Hymnary, 79). We do, however, have God’s promise: ‘They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you’ (20). He will lead us in the way of victory (Colossians 2:8-10).

16:1-21 - ‘O Lord, my Strength and my Stronghold, my Refuge in the day of trouble, to You the nations will come from the ends of the earth... They will know that My Name is the Lord’ (19,21). Faith is to be personal - The Lord is my Strength, my Stronghold, my Refuge. Faith must not be private. It is not to be kept to ourselves. There is to be no ‘us and them’ attitude. We are not to have a ‘we are the people’ attitude. The Gospel is for the nations. We’re not to say, ‘I’m okay. That’s all that matters’. The Gospel is to be taken to the ends of the earth. We are to reach out to others. We must share the Gospel with the people we meet. Tell the people what the Lord has done for you. Tell them what He can do for them. Let them know how much the Lord loves them. Let them know that our God can be their God too.

17:1-27 - ‘The Lord’ is ‘the Fountain of living water’ (13). He says to us, ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). We can be ‘like a tree planted by water’, a tree that ‘does not cease to bear fruit’ (8; Psalm 1:3). God speaks His Word to us: ‘“Where is the Word of the Lord?” Let it come!’ (15; Psalm 1:2) He brings His salvation to us: ‘Save me, and I will saved’(14; Psalm 1:6). He gives His blessing to us: ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord’ (7: Psalm 1:1). We rejoice in God’s ‘eternal love’, drinking from ‘the streams of living waters’ and discovering that ‘grace,... like the Lord the Giver, never fails from age to age’ (Church Hymnary, 421). Let us press on to our heavenly and eternal glory: ‘In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).

18:1-23 - ‘The pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him’ (4). This is what the Lord is doing in our lives. He is ‘the Potter’. We are no more than ‘jars of clay’ (6; Isaiah 64:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7). Our lives are ‘marred’ by sin. It would be very easy to give up on ourselves. God hasn’t given up on us. He looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become. He is preparing us for ‘eternal glory’. ‘We are being renewed day by day’. ‘We are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17:3:18). ‘Jesus, You are changing me. By Your Spirit, You’re making me like You... You are the Potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way...’ (Mission Praise, 389).

19:1-20:6 - ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stubborn and would not listen to My Word’ (15). God is warning the people. He is calling them back from the way of sin and disobedience. He is calling them to return to Him. He is looking for people who will take Him seriously. He calls us to live in obedience to His Word. He calls us to worship Him with the dedication of our lives and not only the words of our lips. Sometimes, we wonder, ‘Will God’s blessing be lost forever? Is there a way of rediscovering His blessing in our lives?’. ‘There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There’s a door that is open and you may go in. At Calvary’s Cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus’ (Mission Praise. 682).

20:7-18 - Jeremiah is deeply depressed - ‘Cursed be the day I was born!... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (14-18). He has been preaching God’s Word. He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (8). Does he stop preaching ? No! He keeps on going. He feels like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”’. There is, however, a greater Power which drives him on - ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire’. No matter how much Jeremiah tries to keep silent, he ‘cannot’ do it (9). He moves forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (11). He calls on the people to worship the Lord: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (13).

21:1-14 - ‘Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past...’ (2). That was then. What about now? We must not assume that God will always bless us. Yesterday’s blessing belongs to the past. We must not live in the past. We must not say, ‘He has blessed us in the past. He will keep on blessing us’. Do you want to keep on enjoying God’s blessing? Keep on seeking His blessing. If we do not seek the Lord, there will be no promise of blessing. We will hear a very different Word from the Lord: ‘I have determined to do this city harm and not good... I will punish as your deeds deserve’ (10,14). Don’t take God’s blessing for granted. You could be ‘in for a rude awakening’ - if you do not start seeking the Lord. Start seeking Him today: ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart’ (29:13).

22:1-30 - Jeremiah was speaking to people who had given up on worshipping the Lord (9). His message was clear: ‘O land, land, land, hear the Word of the Lord?’ (29). God is speaking His Word. Are we listening? God is looking for people who will listen to Him. He wants us to pay attention to His Word. God’s Word is like ‘the sound of a trumpet’. It demands our attention. Many people say, ‘We will not listen’. God’s Word shows us ‘the good way’ and calls us to ‘walk in it’. Many people say, ‘We will not walk in it’. What about you? What do you say? What is your response to the Word of the Lord? God is warning us: ‘I am bringing disaster on this people... because they have not listened to My Word’. Don’t bring this judgment on yourself. Listen to God’s Word. Walk in His way (6:16-19).

23:1-20 - ‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ (1). We are not to be like the false ‘prophets’: ‘They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord’. What were the false ‘prophets’ saying? - ‘They keep saying to those who despise Me, “The Lord says: You will have peace”. To all those who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, “No harm will come to you”’ (16-17). God is calling us to be faithful. It will not be easy. Often, we will be tempted to ‘take the easy way out’. We will feel the pull of the world: ‘Just be the same as everybody else’. This may seem to be the ‘easy’ option. There is something else we must remember: It is also ‘the broad road that leads to destruction’. Let us follow Christ on ‘the narrow road which leads to life’ (Matthew 7:13-14).

23:21-40 - ‘I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied’ (21). Before we can speak for God, we must take time to listen to Him. We dare not attempt to speak for God if we are not prepared to spend time listening to Him. Everything could have been so different - if ‘these prophets’ had taken time to listen to God: ‘If they had stood in My council, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and would have turned them from their evil ways’ (22). ‘If’ - God doesn’t force us to listen to His Word. He invites us to listen. The choice is ours. You can allow other things to become more important than spending time with God. Don’t be ‘too busy’ for the ‘one thing’ that is more important than anything else - listening to God’s Word (Luke 10:41-42).

24:1-25:14 - Can our lives be changed? Yes! They can be changed by God: ‘I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord’. This is no superficial change. This is real change, change which makes a difference. This is a change of heart: ‘they shall return to Me with their whole heart’ (24:7). How are we changed? We are changed by God: ‘I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:14). We become new people - ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11). This is the great change, the change that makes all the difference. It’s not just a little change here and there. It’s everywhere. No part of our life remains the same. Every part of life is changed. When there’s a real change of heart, everything changes - ‘all things have become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). ‘Change my heart, O God...’ (Mission Praise, 69).

25:15-38 - ‘I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears My Name’ (29). With the privilege of being the Lord’s people comes the responsibility of living as the Lord’s people. We are not to be His people in name only. We are to live the life of the people of God. We must not imagine that we can enjoy the privilege of being God’s people if we are not prepared to bear the responsibility of living as His people. Privilege and responsibility belong together: ‘You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins’ (Amos 3:2). We cannot say, ‘I belong to the Lord’ and then live whatever way we like. To those who have been ‘raised with Christ’, receiving new life through faith in Him, God says, ‘Set your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things’ (Colossians 3:1-2).

26:1-24 - ‘He has spoken to us in the Name of the Lord our God’ (16). Jeremiah was a true servant of the Lord. We need people like him today. He was faithful. He was unashamed of his Lord. He was unafraid to speak up for his Lord. We see this same faithfulness in Christ’s apostles: ‘Day after day, in the temple and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and preaching the Good News that Jesus is the Christ’ (Acts 5:42). We could do with people like that today, people who are enthusiastic about sharing the Gospel, people who are eager to win others for Christ. We can be people like that. God can make us like that - if we let Him! As you hear the Word of the Lord in Church, as you read His Word in your own home, pray that God will give you the strength to share with others the Word He has given to you.

27:1-22 - ‘They will be taken to Babylon and there they will remain until the day I come for them. Then I will bring them and restore them to this place’ (22). God had a great purpose for His people - but they had to wait for His time. God has a great purpose for us. Christ is preparing a great ‘place’ for us: ‘In My Father’s House are many mansions... I am going there to prepare a place for you’. Christ has promised that He will return to take us to that great ‘place’: ‘I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also’ (John 14:2-3). Christ is coming. We must wait for Him. We must be patient. We must wait for His time, the time of His Coming, the Day when He comes for us. The Lord has not forgotten His promise. He will come ‘to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’ (Hebrews 9:28).

28:1-17 - ‘Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie’ (15). What a difference there is between those who wait on the Lord for His strength and those who rush ahead in their own strength! The Word of God warns us against trying to serve God in our own strength: ‘Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted’. If we are to be true servants of the Lord, we must learn to wait upon the Lord and receive His strength: ‘Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’. What a difference the strength of the Lord makes - ‘They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:30-31)! Let us exchange our weakness for God’s strength - then we will truly be ‘sent’ by the Lord and will speak His truth.

29:1-32 - ‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’. This was God’s long-term purpose for His people. It was important that they did not lose sight of this. There would be ‘seventy years’ of captivity in Babylon (10-11). At times, they must have wondered, ‘Will this ever end? Is there really something better still to come?’. Our life on earth may sometimes seem like the ‘seventy years’ in Babylon: ‘The length of our days is seventy years... yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow’! We wonder, ‘Is there a glorious future still to come?’. In our times of ‘suffering’ and ‘sorrow’, we draw our ‘strength’ from God’s Word. We look forward to ‘the Day’ when Christ ‘comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be admired in all who believe’ (Psalms 90:10; 119:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5,10).

30:1-24 - ‘I am with you to save you’. This was God’s Word to His people. Their ‘captivity’ in Babylon would not last forever. God had given His promise: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people... I will bring them back to the land which I gave to their fathers’ (10-11,3). ‘I am with you to save you’. This is still God’s Word to us. Our ‘captivity’ will not last forever. Christ has died to ‘free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’. We look beyond our earthly life. We see our glorious future. ‘Death’ will be ‘swallowed up in victory’. ‘Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. Let us ‘be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, our labour is not in vain’ (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:54,57-58).

31:1-20 - ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (3). So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us. The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’. As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’ (18).

31:21-40 - ‘Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take’ (21). It’s so easy to take a wrong turning. You lose your sense of direction. You get confused. You’re not sure which way to go. You are lost. You are getting more and more lost all the time. You can’t find your way back home again. You need someone who knows the way to come and be your guide. Is there someone who can get us on the right road again? Is there someone who can guide us safely home? Yes! Jesus is ‘the Way, the True Way, the Living Way’. ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. That’s what Jesus said. Without the Way, there is no going, Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living’ (John 14:6; Junior Praise, 89). Let Jesus be your Guide. Let Him be your Saviour.

32:1-25 - ‘Nothing is too hard for You’ (17). We face many difficult situations. What are you to do when you feel you can take no more? Remember the Lord. Nothing is too hard for Him. Remember His promise: ‘The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one’ (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Jesus calls us to follow Him. He calls us to follow Him. He warns us - ‘the way is hard’. It is Jesus - our loving Saviour - who calls us to follow Him. He does not leave us to go it alone. He gives us His strength - ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 4:19; 7:14; 11:30). ‘When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He alone has power to keep. Fix your eyes upon Him’. You can ‘depend on’ Jesus. He is your ‘gracious Friend’. ‘He is faithful to the end’ (Junior Praise, 279).

32:26-44 - ‘I will bring them back to this place’ (37). God is bringing us into His ‘place’. He is bringing us close to Himself: ‘They will be My people, and I will be their God’ (38). He is bringing us into the ‘place’ of obedience: ‘I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me’ (40). He is leading us to the ‘place’ of blessing: ‘I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and the good of their children after them’ (39). Sometimes, our life seems like ‘a desolate waste’. We must not lose sight of the purpose of God: ‘I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My heart and soul’ (43,41). God will not leave us in our ‘desolate waste’. He will lead us to a better ‘place’ - the ‘place’ of obedience and blessing.

33:1-26 - ‘I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me... Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise, and honour before all nations on earth...’ (7-9). What great blessing lay ahead of God’s people! God was pointing His people to the place of blessing: Jesus Christ - ‘the righteous Branch from David’s line’ (15-16). ‘In Christ’, we have ‘every spiritual blessing’: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9). God has so much blessing to give to us. Come to Him and receive His blessing: ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you; I will show you wonderful and marvellous things that you know nothing about’ (3).

34:1-22 - ‘Freedom for the slaves’ - What a good idea! ‘Everyone agreed’. The slaves were ‘set free’. So far, so good! Then things went wrong - ‘Afterwards they changed their minds and took back the slaves... and enslaved them again’ (8-11). What did God have to say about this? - ‘You have turned round and dishonoured Me... You took back the slaves... You forced them into slavery again... You have not obeyed Me’ (16-17). Jesus Christ isn’t like these slavemasters! He doesn’t only promise us freedom. He gives us our freedom: ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’. He doesn’t come to us with ‘a pack of lies’ - promising this, that and the other, and then breaking every promise. He sets us free with His Word of truth - ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:36,32; Psalm 119:45).

35:1-19 - ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey My words?’ (13) - ‘Jonadab, son of Rechab, ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept... I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed Me’ (14). We are not to say, ‘I will follow You’ and then change our mind (Luke 9:57). We are not to sing, ‘Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee’, and then live a life which contradicts our prayer of commitment to the Lord (Church Hymnary, 462). We are to mean what we say. We are to follow through our words of commitment with a life of obedience, a life that is pleasing to the Lord. The Rechabites were obedient to Jonadaab’s command - and they were blessed by God (18-19). Obedient and blessed - That’s what God wants us to be. Let’s obey the Lord - and look to Him for the blessing.

36:1-32 - ‘The king cut it with the penknife, and threw it into the fire’ (23). The king didn’t like God’s Word. He thought he could get rid of God’s Word. What a fool he was! God saw what was going on. The king’s attempt to silence God was utterly futile. God would not be silenced. He continued to speak His Word. Soon, the king was hearing another Word from the Lord: ‘You burned that scroll...’ (29)! God is still speaking to us today. He calls us to listen to Him. He calls us back from the way of ‘wickedness’, back from the brink of ‘disaster’ (31). He calls us back from the way of unbelief, the way that leads to ‘the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’. He calls us to be ‘blessed’. Have faith in the Saviour. Receive ‘the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ (Matthew 25:41,34).

37:1-21 - ‘Is there any Word from the Lord?’ - ‘Yes! There is a Word from the Lord’. The Word from the Lord wasn’t exactly what the king wanted to hear - ‘You will be handed over to the king of Babylon’ (17). God was going to bless His people - but they would have to be patient: Things were going to get an awful lot worse before they would get much better! Before their restoration - “I will bring them back and restore them to this place’ - , God’s people faced captivity - ‘They will be taken to Babylon’. There was bad news - a captivity of ‘seventy years’. There was good news - the captivity wouldn’t last forever (27:22; 29:10-11)! God speaks of His blessing - ‘It will certainly come’ - , but He also says, ‘Wait for it’ (Habakkuk 2:3). Let’s listen to all that He says to us - and not ‘only hear what we want to hear’!

38:1-28 - ‘No Surrender’ - Was this the way forward for God’s people? ‘No Surrender’ - What would happen if God’s people adopted this attitude? Jeremiah speaks God’s Word to the people. He calls them to make their choice. They can ‘surrender’ and ‘live’. They can say, ‘No Surrender’ - and face certain death (17-18). Captivity in Babylon would not be easy. They would be heartbroken as they recalled happier times - ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion’. It would be so difficult to keep on praising the Lord - ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:1,4). Life in Babylon would be difficult - but ‘it would not be the end of the world’! They could still look forward to the fulfilment of God’s ‘gracious promise’: ‘I will come to you and bring you back to this place’ (29:10).

39:1-18 - You can take the man out of Babylon, but you can’t take Babylon out of the man! We may have never set foot in the ancient city of Babylon, but we know all about the spirit of Babylon! ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’ (17:9) - This is the spirit of Babylon, ‘the spirit of disobedience’, the spirit which is ‘at work’ in every one of us: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Ephesians 2:2; Romans 3:23). Is there any hope for us? We cannot change ourselves: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (13:23). We can be changed by God. To those who ‘trust’ in Him, the Lord says, ‘I will save you’ (18). God wants to bless you. Put your trust in Him. Let His blessing flow into your heart (17:7).

40:1-16 - ‘The Lord your God pronounced this evil against this place; the Lord has brought it about, and has done as He said. Because you sinned against the Lord, and did not obey His voice, this thing has come upon you’ (3). We hear a great deal today about ‘the feel good factor’. People need to get a good feeling: ‘Give them a pat on the back. Make them feel good about themselves’. There’s not much of a ‘feel good factor’ in Jeremiah’s preaching! The people must have been wondering, ‘Where did they dig him up from? He has nothing good to say about anyone or anything’. We must rise above the sarcasm of those who have no time for the Word of the Lord. We must ask, ‘Where did Jeremiah’s message really come from?’. This is what the Word of the Lord says: ‘The Word came to Jeremiah from the Lord’ (1).

41:1-42:6 - Terrible things were happening! Things were going from bad to worse. ‘What next?’ - The people were wondering where it would all end. What are we to do when everything seems to be getting totally out of control? There is one thing we must never forget. It is the most important thing of all. We must ‘pray to the Lord our God’. We must ask Him to ‘show us the way we should go’. He will ‘show us the thing that we should do’ (42:2-3). It’s time to stop complaining and start praying. ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!... Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer!... Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer!’ (Mission Praise, 746).

42:7-43:7 - ‘Do not go to Egypt’ (19). We may never set foot in the country known as ‘Egypt’ - but the spirit of ‘Egypt’ may be in our hearts: ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him...?’ (Exodus 5:2). ‘Egypt’ is an attitude of the heart. It is an attitude of rebellion against God. We must say ‘No’ to ‘Egypt’. We must say ‘No’ to the spirit of rebellion against God. For God’s people, ‘Egypt’ was a place of slavery, a place from which they needed to be set free by God (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-10). Each of us must choose how we will live. We can remain in the place of slavery - ‘slaves of sin’ - , or we can be ‘obedient from the heart’, stepping out from that place into the place of freedom, ‘the new life of the Spirit’ - ‘`the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 6:17-18; 7:6; 8:2).

43:8-44:14 - ‘The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah’ (43:8). The Lord speaks His Word to those who are prepared to make time for listening to Him. Come to God’s Word, praying that it will be ‘a lamp to your feet and a light to your path’. Come with the prayer, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Word’. See that you ‘live according to His Word’: ‘I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You’ (Psalm 119:105,18,9,11). Pray that God will ‘speak’ to you. ‘Listen’ to what He says to you (1 Samuel 3:10). ‘Say to them, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says...”’ (43:10). Don’t keep God’s Word to yourself. Share His Word. We are not to listen to God without also speaking for Him. We must remember that we cannot really speak for Him unless we are also listening to Him.

44:15-45:5 - ‘Egypt’ was to be a place of punishment. To those who remain in the the place of rebellion, God says, ‘I will punish you in this place’. This is His Word of warning. We don’t need to remain in the place of rebellion and punishment. We can ‘return’ to ‘Judah’, the place of obedience and blessing (28-29). This is not about places we will find on a map of the world. It’s a call to look into the secret places of our hearts. We must ask God to search our hearts. What will He find when He looks into our hearts? Will He find rebellion? Will He find obedience? God wants us to leave the place of rebellion and punishment. He wants us to return to the place of obedience and blessing. ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart!... See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:23-24).

46:1-28 - ‘Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge. He said, “I will rise, I will cover the earth, I will destroy cities and their inhabitants”’ (8). The spirit of rebellion against God is very powerful. Many lives have been destroyed by the attitude of proud unbelief: ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him...?’ (Exodus 5:2). We must take our stand against this attitude. We must stand up for the Lord. We see the world going from bad to worse. We must continue to believe the Word of God. When we are filled with fear, He comes to us with His Word, ‘Do not fear... Do not be dismayed...’. When we feel the spirit of rebellion sweeping over us, God comes to us with His promise: ‘I will surely save you out of a distant place’. He gives us ‘peace and security’ - ‘Do not fear... I am with you’ (27-28).

47:1-48:17 - ‘The day has come to destroy all the Philistines... The Lord is about to destroy the Philistines... Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh are destroyed’ (47:4). That seems like ancient history - nothing to do with us! What about this? - ‘A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!’ (48:17). The Bible may have been written many centuries ago - but it still has a great deal to do with us! We miss the point if we read the Bible as no more than a book of ancient history. God is still speaking to us through His Word. He is still calling us to sit up and take notice. He is still demanding our attention. We must not be lazy in the work of the Lord. We are to be faithful servants of the Lord. ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord... your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).

49:1-22 - ‘Afterwards I will restore the fortunes...’ (6). Sometimes, when you’re going through a particularly difficult time, you may wonder, ‘Will this ever end?’. God speaks to us His Word of encouragement. There will be an ‘afterwards’. There will be a ‘restoration of our fortunes’. ‘The Lord will not cast us off for ever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion according to His steadfast love. He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone’ (Lamentations 3:31-33). There will come a time when we will be able to look back at our most distressing circumstances and say from the heart, ‘God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20). In our most testing and trying times, God is teaching us to say, with confidence in Him, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him’ (Romans 8:28).

49:23-39 - ‘I will restore the fortunes... in days to come’ (39). God is calling us on to His future, a glorious future, a future full of heavenly and eternal glory. We look ahead to ‘days to come’. We look ahead to the greatest Day of all - the Day of Christ’s Return. It will be a glorious Day - ‘the Day He comes to be glorified... in all who have believed’. What a glorious Day it will be - the Day of ‘the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’, the Day of ‘our being gathered to Him’: ‘The Lord Himself will come down from heaven... We will be with the Lord for ever’. Get ready for Christ’s Return. Don’t be like those who ‘perish’. They ‘do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus’. They ‘refuse to love the truth and be saved’. Have ‘faith’ in Christ and be ‘saved’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2:1,10,13-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

50:1-28 - ‘The people... will go in tears to seek the Lord their God... They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten’ (4-5). God is calling us to come to Him. He is calling us to commit ourselves to Him. We are to come to the Lord with ‘tears’: ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (2 Corinthians 7:10). Our commitment to the Lord is not to be a half-hearted thing. It is to be a whole-hearted dedication of our lives to Him. God loves us. He has blessed us so much. He has drawn us to Himself. He has heard and answered our prayer for salvation. How are we to respond to such love? We must give ourselves to Him as ‘a living sacrifice’. This is our ‘spiritual worship’. It is ‘holy and pleasing to God’ (Romans 12:1).

50:29-46 - ‘The arrogant one will stumble and fall’ (32). God’s Word warns us - ‘Pride goes before... a fall’; ‘Arrogance will bring your downfall’ (Proverbs 16:18; 29:23). We must not trust in ourselves. We must put our trust in the Lord - Our ‘Redeemer is strong. The Lord Almighty is His Name’ (34). We must not boast of ourselves. Salvation is ‘not our own doing’. We must ‘boast of the Lord’. Salvation is ‘the gift of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). When we are tempted to take pride in ourselves - ‘Lord, I thank You that I am not like other men...’ (Luke 18:11-12), we must come to the Cross of Christ, praying the sinner’s prayer - ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13) - and boasting only of the Lord - ‘God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14).

51:1-33 - ‘Lift up a banner in the land! Blow the trumpet among the nations!’ (27). God calls us to be His witnesses. If we are growing in our fellowship with the Lord, we will want others to know what they’re missing. We will want them to know how much blessing they could know - if they put their faith in Christ and began to walk with Him day-by-day. Let us give our testimony: ‘The Lord is my Banner’, ‘His banner over me is love’ (Exodus 17:15; Song of Solomon 2:4). Let us make sure that our ‘trumpet’ gives out ‘a clear call’, calling people to come to Christ. We must point them to Christ, calling them to trust Him as Saviour and obey Him as Lord. We must show them the way to true happiness: ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey’ (Mission Praise, 760).

51:34-64 - ‘When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud’ (61). God’s Word is not to be kept within the place of worship. We are to take His Word to ‘Babylon’. We must speak His Word in the places where He is not worshipped. We are to call people to turn from their sinful ways. We are to call them to return to the Lord. This will not be an easy message to speak. Many people won’t want to hear it. We must warn people that by neglecting God’s salvation, they are placing themselves in danger of His judgment. We must speak of the Day when everyone of us must ‘answer’ to God concerning the way we have lived our lives (Hebrews 2:3; 4:13). We must call on people to ‘believe in the Lord Jesus’ and ‘be saved’ (Acts 16:31).

52:1-34 - We need ‘a portion for each day... all the days of our life’ (34). When we pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, we must look beyond our physical need for food. We must remember our spiritual need for ‘the Bread of life’: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God’ (Matthew 6:11; John 6:35; Luke 4:4). Day-by day, we should pray for spiritual feeding: ‘Break Thou the Bread of life, dear Lord to me, as Thou didst break the bread beside the sea. Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord. My spirit longs for Thee, Thou living Word! Thou art the Bread of life, O Lord, to me, Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me. Give me to eat and live with Thee above. Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love’ (Mission Praise, 64).

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