The Story of Jeremiah – Part 2
In February 2021 we continue meditations on the Book of Jeremiah written by Sam MacDonald before he went to glory on 14th October 2020. He used the late Selwyn Hughes’s booklet ‘Every day with Jesus’ as a guide. Dad completed up to the 6th February and so I have continued from then on and added Prayer/praise points to keep us praising God until we can do that safely again in public worship. Love Ann MacDonald.
Monday 1st February 2021.
Jeremiah 20: I–18. Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed. Verse 14.
After been beaten and left in the stocks overnight, Jeremiah is in the depths of despair and wonders why his mother had allowed him to live, so as to save him from the distress he now felt. Jeremiah was a complex character, one moment he was loyal to the words spoken to him by God, while the next he became full of doubt for the future, but he told Pashhur, who had arranged that Jeremiah should be beaten, that he and his friends would be taken into exile and there they would die. However, a few verses on he is complaining that God has caused insult to rain down on him, as he continues to tell of the kingdoms of God’s coming punishment but has to confess that he cannot keep silent about this and then gives praise that God is with him in all his troubles. If God is with us, what have we to fear?
Come people of the risen King https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j07fbld3uY
Another brilliant item of praise from the Getty and Stuart Townend camp. This is a great item to begin our month of devotions with as it gathers us, reminding that we must rejoice as we approach worshipping God. Are you, like me very aware of disappointments and weaknesses that sometimes make us feel that we cannot approach an almighty God? We cannot come to God because of our own worth but we come because of what He has done for us and He want us to come, to lay all our joys and sorrows before Him. Lord today help us to come to You as Your people and give us hearts to tell everyone we can of the free gift You offer to us because of the enormous price You paid for us at Calvary.
Tuesday 2nd February.
A King will reign wisely, in his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. Verse 5-6.
For the first time Jeremiah is able to prophesy that although severe punishment from God will be given to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel because of their evil ways, a day will come when God will rescue them and bring them back safely from the lands where they were exiled. So Jeremiah begins to compare the corrupt kings and priests with the one who was to come, namely Jesus who was to become the Messiah and he also predicted that He was to be a direct descendant of King David as had been promised by God’s covenant with David. He likened that this change from the present wicked kingdoms to the coming of one who would establish a new way to worship God, was like a tree that was chopped down and yet sprouts grow up fresh from its roots. And thus, we see Jesus as a shoot which imparts His righteousness by His grace.
I am a new creation no more in condemnation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yvw_eV36sQ
Written by Dave Bilbrough this uplifting praise paraphrases scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18. Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Dave Bilbrough is a prominent UK songwriter and speaker who became a Christian in 1971 but found the hymns difficult to relate to and so set about putting scripture into song. Among other praise items we may be familiar with ‘All hail the Lamb’ and ‘Abba Father.’ If we can truly say that we are a new creation in Christ, then we have much to celebrate and rejoice in no matter what life throws at us. The chorus asks us to sing our thanks. ‘And I will praise You Lord, yes I will praise You Lord and I will sing of all that You have done. A joy that knows no limit, a lightness in my spirit, here in the grace of God I stand.’ We give thanks for this amazing transformation and pray that all would come to experience this new life in Christ.
Wednesday 3rd February.
Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you, they fill you with false hopes. They speak of visions from their own minds, not from the Lord. Verse 16.
We turn to speak about priests and teachers who were justifiably called false, for they determined what would please those who worshipped man made idols and made predictions which they proclaimed were from God and thus led the people astray. The question arises, how do we know if a preacher is false? There are at least 3 ways, the 1st is by altering the true words of scripture and omitting to stress words which condemn ways of life which are abhorrent to God. 2nd is that they seem to live as God has planned but by their actions fail to do so. And 3rd they encourage people to follow their ways without saying that they are displeasing God, in the hope that they will please the people and be popular with them. But we must be watchful not to discourage a minister who is keen to preach the full Gospel and perhaps use new ways to do so.
Count your blessings name them one by one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fMjgS4vu4o
This hymn of gratitude was written 1897 by Johnson Oatman Junior who was the author of over 5000 hymns and gospel songs over his lifetime. Johnson’s father was a well-known singer of the time and his son longed to follow in his footsteps but was not blessed with the same vocal ability. The song simply draws our attention away from our tendency to focus on the negative things in life, which is so easy to do especially with all the media driven madness forced upon us. It is very difficult to still feel downhearted after singing through the words. Each verse helps us focus on the things we worry about, being discouraged, burdens of care, poverty and conflict and helps us substitute positive thoughts in every case. Did you start the day not feeling so good? Try this, ‘When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.’
Thursday 4th February.
Then the Lord asked me, ‘What do you see Jeremiah?’ ‘Figs’ I answered The good ones are very good, but the poor ones are so bad they cannot be eaten. Verse 3.
This verse is used to explain God’s views when all the craftsmen and tradesmen were taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. God had 2 baskets of figs placed in Jeremiah’s sight, one full of good fruit and the other with worthless figs. Those who were left to stay in Jerusalem were likened to the basket of worthless figs, whilst those taken away to foreign lands were classed as good fruit. Those left were unlikely to change their idolatrous ways for which God was showing His displeasure, whereas those who had been exiled would have been so shocked by the alteration to their lives, they would readily seek God as the only way to show regret for the errors which had led to this punishment from God. We pray that when we receive chastisement from God for wrong thoughts or actions, we will repent or we will be regarded as bad figs, fit only to be thrown out.
His mercy is more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1GiZL60c80
Originally penned about 2015 by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa and now recorded on many Getty albums this powerful praise looks at the depths of our sin and asks how on earth any of the complex wrongs we commit could be forgiven by anybody, then answers that question as we would expect. No one but God could do that. Read the words of the first verse, ‘What love could remember no wrongs we have done. Omniscient, all knowing, He counts not their sum, Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore, Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.’ Do we always know that our sins, even if they are ‘like scarlet’ are forgiven? In John 20:23 we read, ‘If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ And in Ephesians 1:7-8 we read, ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.’ We rest in the fact that God forgives us when we confess our wrongs to Him, and we praise Him for His Word.
Friday 5th February.
For 23 years until this very day, the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. Verse 3.
We come now to the point at which God declares that He is going to pour out His wrath on these kingdoms because of their refusal to repent from their wicked ways. He even tells them that His punishment will last for a period of 70 years. Note that by this time most of these wicked people will have died. The people of Israel, Judah and the city of Jerusalem had heard from Jeremiah that their ways were corrupt and shameful and that they must repent and change to obey God’s ways and commands, but they paid no heed over a period of 23 years, and at this point God declares that His patience will no longer be extended so He tells them that He will not listen to their prayers any more but will bring His wrath in full on these disobedient wicked people. It would seem to be boring and tedious to hear the same message from God over such a long time but If what is being said is from the Lord, it will never be boring.
O God of Bethel by whose hand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQdp_8gO0lk
We find the familiar words in paraphrase 2 talking about the God of ancient times leading His people through Genesis. Bethel (or sometimes called Luz) was where Jacob headed in flight from his vengeful brother, where he slept and dreamt of the stairway to heaven. ‘O God of Bethel, by whose hand Thy people still are fed, Who through this weary pilgrimage hast all our fathers led.’ The version we normally sing was adapted from scripture by Philip Doddridge (1701-1751). He was pastor of a non-conformist church not associated with the national Church of England. A wealthy patron had offered Philip the education he would require to be ordained into the Church of England, but he declined, electing to remain in a poor parish in Northampton. In the later days of his life he contracted tuberculosis and moved to Lisbon where he died shortly after arrival. Let us give thanks that the God of Bethel who led Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God who leads us also, ‘through each perplexing path of life.’
Saturday 6th February.
The Lord said to me ‘take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you, drink it.’
Here we are asked to persevere when God gives us a task to do, we must not give up. Remember how Jeremiah kept at it for over 23 years with little reward, other than seeing God’s promise to punish the wicked people who refused to follow His ways coming to pass. He kept on preaching the Word of God wherever God sent him. When we are given a task, God want us to stick with it no matter what happens, we are to go on faithfully but not always successfully. That is very difficult because our natures would have us pursue success. In a speech to his old school, Winston Churchill concluded, ‘Never, never give in, in nothing great or small, large, or petty, never give in.’ God does not give us impossible or unproductive work to do and in the same way that God never gives up on us, we must keep going on and for Him.
Abba, Father let me be Yours and Yours alone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXWvS1trWpM.
Often sung in the Sunday school over many years these simple words might be our prayer at the beginning of a new day. ‘Abba Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone, may my will forever be evermore Your own. Never let my heart grow cold never let me go. Abba, Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone.’ Again written by Dave Bilbrough we find the scripture reference in Romans 8:15. ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba Father.’ We are surely amazed that the God who brought all things into being would want us to have so close a relationship with Him that we reverently can call him ‘Dad’.
Sunday 7th February.
I will make this city an object of cursing.
Can you imagine someone going into a beautiful cathedral and suggesting that despite its beautiful architecture and sacred services that it would be destroyed by God? In Jeremiah’s times, to say anything derogatory about the Temple in Jerusalem was regarded as treason, and yet this is the message that Jeremiah has been given to communicate, and because of this message he is the subject of death threats. The Temple officials and Elders demand that Jeremiah appears before them to explain himself. However, his speech and answers to their questioning is so persuasive that many who listened, both priests and laymen were convinced by Jeremiah’s warnings. Many of the laymen here were more well versed in the Scripture than the Priests and even today we are blessed to have people who take the study of God’s Word seriously and apply it to their lives, lives which shine out to others in blessing.
He will hold me fast. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=936BapRFHaQ
Although some of us will be familiar with this praise from K&K Getty, our version here is an adaptation from a piece written long before by Matt Merker who had been given the words by a Pastor in his church. He forgot about them until he was going through a challenging time of uncertainty and doubt. He read the words over and also passages from scripture like Psalm 139 (please read) and Jude verse 24 ‘Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.’ Matt was able to see the promise of God to him, that Christ is a Risen Saviour in whom we can trust in all times. ‘When I fear my faith will fail Christ will hold me fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast I could never keep my hold Through life’s fearful path. For my love is often cold He must hold me fast.’ When we are overwhelmed, which can happen often, just cling to Jesus and repeat the chorus. ‘He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Saviour loves me so, He will hold me fast.’
Monday 8th February.
‘Bow your neck under the king of Babylon.’
Here God instructs Jeremiah to make a yoke like the wooden beam used to join two oxen together to plough or pull a load. Then the prophet is to place this yoke on himself and use it to illustrate to the heads of the surrounding nations that trying to fight the Babylonian armies is futile and they were ultimately to come under the yoke of Babylon. What a prospect, the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar was despotic, ruthless, and godless and yet in verse 6 this king is called ‘my servant’. God would use even this tyrant to advance His plan and bring His people to realise their disobedience. Our God is not limited to working through His people only, He has everyone and everything under His yoke. These times must have been perplexing for Jeremiah’s generation and yet even although they did not understand what God was doing, this was all in His plan. Many times in our lives we cannot understand what God is doing but we trust that even if it is beyond our perception it is well within the Master’s plan.
Here I am Lord, is it I Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c
This well-known praise was written by Dan Schutte a member of the St Louis Jesuit group. He had been asked to compose a song to be sung for a diaconate ordination Mass. He sat at his desk with a blank piece of paper and wondered, ‘Where do I begin?’ He was somehow led to remember the call of the prophets like Isaiah, Samuel, and Jeremiah in the Old Testament and wrote the piece following their sometimes unexpected and fearful beginnings to their ministry. Isaiah 6:8 tells us, ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And Isaiah said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ The first verse asks the question, and perhaps it’s a question God is asking us, if we say we follow Him, are we really willing to step out of our comfort zone and go where He needs us, to do what He needs us to do? ‘I the Lord of sea and sky I have heard my people cry, all who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save. I who made the stars of night I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear My light to them? Whom shall I send?’ What will our answer be?
Tuesday 9th February.
‘At this the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.’
Jeremiah has prophesised (wearing a yoke) that Jerusalem will fall and that fighting against the Babylonian empire is futile, a difficult message for all to hear. Hananiah, a false prophet stood up to Jeremiah in the temple and challenged the word that God had given to him. Hananiah proclaims that he has had a message also and it is much less harsh, he reveals that Nebuchadnezzar’s hold on Jerusalem will only last two years and then everything will be returned to the Temple and all will be well. Instead of engaging in a debate as to which message is correct, Jeremiah says, ‘Amen, may it be so.’ Oh it would be wonderful if that were true. Hananiah breaks Jeremiah’s yoke but the prophet does not retaliate, he simply walks away confident in the message that God has given him to proclaim. How do we react when our arguments or long held beliefs are challenged? If we know that our tenets are grounded in Scripture, we have no need to defend ourselves.
Crown Him with many crowns (Majesty) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqy-gob13kA
I chose this slightly different version of the famous hymn. Sometimes we sing the same praise words so many times, we may simply be repeating something we have sung since childhood and we must question whether the familiar words really touch our hearts and make them soar in praise to God. The original was written by Matthew Bridges (1801-1890) who was born in Essex but emigrated to Quebec Canada. He published two books of Hymns called Hymns of the Heart and the Passion of Jesus. Crown Him with many crowns was in the first book. It was initially to be sung on the last Sunday before Advent with the first stanza, ‘Crown Him with many crown, the Lamb upon the throne’ taken from Revelation. This version by Chris Tomlin adds a wonderful chorus linking the verses. ‘Majesty, Lord of all, let every knee before Him fall. The King of kings, O come adore, our God who reigns forevermore.’ I hope you are able to listen to the link and today really open our hearts and mouths to let our adoration of our eternal Father ascend to Him.
Wednesday 10th February.
‘This is what the Lord Almighty says to all those I carries into exile.’
All that Jeremiah had spoken about has now come to fruition. Several thousand people from Jerusalem and its surrounding towns would be carried away to Babylon. Their lives so different, nothing was familiar, and the people became very depressed. Some of their religious leaders addressed the exiles telling them that this was very temporary, and they would soon be returning home. When Jeremiah hears of this, he writes to the exiles warning them not to listen to their leaders, this exile was going to be for a very long time and urges them to fill their emptiness and despair by seeking the Lord. Jeremiah could have said to them, ‘Serves you right,’ but he is encouraging that in God’s time they will be restored. When our world is turned topsy turvey, it is God’s way of setting us off in a new direction and we need to seek and lean on Him only.
El Shaddai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clt8BoHb0JE
This piece using many of the Hebrew names for God tells of the God of the past promising a way back for fallen sinners to Him. It was written around 1981 by Michael Card and John Thompson and recorded on the ‘Legacy’ album of praise. El Shaddai is a Judaic name of God meaning God almighty. We find the reference for this in Genesis 17:1 ‘I am El-Shaddai, ‘God Almighty.’ Serve Me faithfully and live a blameless life.’ A study of the many Hebrew names for God makes for interesting reading and I would recommend this if you possibly can. The chorus used other names like El Elyon na Adoni meaning Lord God in the Highest and Erkamka na Adoni meaning Lord how we love You. Very expressive don’t you think? The first verse shows us the promise of Christ from Old Testament times. ‘Through the years you made it clear, that the time of Christ was near, through the people failed to see, what Messiah ought to be, though your Word contained the plan, they just could not understand, Your most awesome work was done, through the frailty of your Son.’ We can give thanks that praise is sung in so many languages today and that the promise of God’s Word has been and will be fulfilled.
Thursday 11th February.
‘You will be My people, and I will be your God.’
Up until now Jeremiah has been the prophet of doom, and his predictions for the people of God have come to be. They have gone through a process of pruning and being obstinate and are now living with these consequences. But now Jeremiah begins to look ahead to the time when God will restore His people and return them home from exile. Jeremiah sees a time when, instead of walking away from God’s Word, they will be willing to accept it and repent. Here much of what the prophet says can be compared with the way Isaiah compared past and future events, sometimes it would indicate that things would happen soon but in fact, some time would pass before things came to pass. The end of the exile gave hope to Jeremiah and God’s people, but he saw a day far ahead when Christ would come and reign forever as the ultimate hope. And our hope that we would be His people and He our God.
Be thou my vision O Lord of my Heart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CMclLT_Hjg.
This renowned hymn of praise originates in Ireland and is attributed to a sixth century Irish poet called Dallán Forgaill. Irish monks used his poem as a chant, and it is thought that is where the hymn was derived. The poet was later made into a saint, St Dallán and it believed that the first line of the hymn, ‘Be Thou my vision O Lord of my heart,’ was penned because the saint had been robbed of his sight. We can use the words as our prayer, that Christ would be our vision, our best thought for each new day, that He would be our presence and our light, the simple things in life and not succumb to the world’s ways, wanting riches and perhaps prestige but instead cling to the promise of the final verse. ‘High King of heaven after victory is won, may I reach heavens joys, O bright heavens sun, Heart of my own heart whatever befall, still be my vision O Ruler of all.’
Friday 12th February.
Jeremiah said, ‘The Word of the Lord came to me.’
Sometimes we can have hope and confidence that something promised will happen, but do we have the courage to put our money where our mouth is? King Zedekiah sends Jeremiah to prison, incensed by the prophet’s advice to submit to the Babylonians. While Jeremiah is in prison a cousin comes to visit with a bizarre proposition. He offers to sell Jeremiah a plot of land in Anathoth currently occupied by the invading armies. In normal circumstances this would not be a sound investment by any means, but God had already guided the prophet and he promptly seals the deal handing over the asking price of 17 shekels of silver. What amazing faith! Jeremiah knew how dark things were, but he had absolute trust in God. Trust is not stress free, and if the promises of God seem under attack in our lives it might seem that they will never come to pass. God will delay what we need until we need it or are able to cope with it and we must be confident in this promise.
Mary did you know? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPsgIhlYQmM
It may seem a little unseasonal to be talking about a Christmas song in February, but I wanted us to be a little past the babe of Bethlehem and look at this holy child growing up with His earthly parents. The words were written in 1984 by Mark Lowry after a conversation he had had with his own mother about Mary giving birth to Jesus. His mother stated, ‘If anyone on earth knew for sure that Jesus was virgin born, Mary knew.’ This reply set the process going in Mark’s head as he thought about having a conversation with Mary asking her, for example, ‘Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation,’ What a responsibility for a young Israeli woman, and yet she had agreed in faith to God’s plan. How would we react if God asked us to trust Him and take on some challenging project for Him? ‘Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
And this sleeping child you’re holding is the Great I Am!’ Worth dwelling on these praise words today.
Saturday 13th February.
‘Ah Sovereign God, nothing is too hard for You.’
So, Jeremiah bought had bought the field in Anathoth because he believed God’s promise and he wanted to demonstrate this belief to God’s people, all very noble, but Jeremiah is only human and now he feels that what he has done is unwise. He is filled with doubt, but how he handles that doubt gives us our lesson for when we land in similar circumstances. Jeremiah seeks to bring the situation and his feelings to God so that his thoughts and God’s thoughts can be restored. There are pointers here for us. Jeremiah begins by emphasising God’s creative power and His justice and truth. This is followed by focus on God’s acts of redemption and follows on with confession of his sins of the past, the present difficulties and concludes with his hope in the future God has prepared for him. Jeremiah could hold on with this prayer as can we.
Joseph’s song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hINfyhuTt0
Continuing from yesterday’s thoughts on Mary’s reaction to becoming the mother of God, I thought that today we might look at the story from Joseph’s point of view. His plans to be a carpenter and provide for himself and his fiancé were turned upside down by the news that his beloved Mary was pregnant, and it was nothing to do with him. Normally this would have brought disgrace and danger to them both, but God guided Joseph in a dream and Joseph trusted Him. Michael Card, who has recorded 38 albums where he seeks to express the vast depth of scripture penned these words on his first album. I tried reading these words and fitting myself into Joseph’s head as he, a simple human being, held in his arms, the Son of God. ‘Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours, how can a man be father to the Son of God? Lord for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter, how can I raise a King, how can I raise a King? How could it be this baby in my arms. sleeping now, so peacefully, the Son of God, the angel said, how could it be?’
Sunday 14th February.
‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
In this passage we see how God carries on telling Jeremiah about His promises for the future and how He will restore the fortunes of His people in His time. Throughout the Bible we see numerous examples of how God seeks to encourage His servants when they face difficult, depressing, and discouraging situations. We do not know what lies ahead and when that causes us fear and anxiety, where do we go first? Do we phone a friend, google the answer to our problem or take it to the Lord in prayer. The great Christian philosopher Pascal wrote, ‘It ought to be the soul’s habit whenever discouraged or in need of guidance to first call out to the Lord before calling on anyone else.’ Our Saviour wants a true meaningful relationship with us, talking to Him face to face so that he can reassure and embolden us for all our times here.
Eternal Father strong to save. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDjwUzUnNpU
This hymn which had been adopted as the traditional anthem for seamen and particularly the maritime services. It was written in 1860 by William Whiting. William lived near the coast in England and was inspired to record the words after a fierce storm almost claimed the ship, he was travelling in. The event affirmed the authors belief that God’s command was over the rage of the sea, bringing it to a calm and saving those tossed in the storm. Psalm 107:23-26 provided the stimulus, and if you read these verses you can almost imagine being on the deck of a ship in high seas. ‘Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep. For He spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away.’ Only God can bring the storms of our lives to a calm if we trust Him fully.
Monday 15th February.
‘Recently you repented, but now you have turned around,
Jeremiah faces a tough task in this passage. He is told to go to King Zedekiah and inform him that the city of Jerusalem is about to be defeated and that he and its inhabitants will be carried off to Babylon. Having delivered this message Zedekiah acts. He desperately wants to find a way to alter God’s mind. He comes up with a plan to solve the situation. Every seven years, by law, slaves were to be set free. Zedekiah orders all the slave owners to release all their slaves immediately in an attempt to sway God’s coming wrath. Miraculously, this seems to work, and word comes that the Egyptian army is on its way to assist Zedekiah. When they think the threat is over, the slave drivers reverse their release, and all slaves are returned to captivity. Jeremiah is scathing in his response concerning this action. Under stress, do we try to bargain with God, and when things calm down revert to how we acted before?
Yesterday, today forever Jesus is the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjwEueUzOzM
This old chorus must have been sung by countless children and adults to express the simple truth that no matter what happens in the world as regimes change, politics change, fortunes change, health pandemics ensue, natural disaster occur and so on, we have a God who never changes, He does change His mind, He carries on with His plan and encourages us not to fear, ‘even though the earth be removed’ we can rely on Him. Hebrews 13:8-9 tell us, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.’ When what we read in newspapers and view on television grips our hearts with terror, as is often the case, let us try to repeat this simple song. ‘Yesterday, today forever, Jesus is the same, all may change but Jesus never, glory to His Name.’
Tuesday 16th February.
‘Go to the Recabite family and give them wine to drink.’
Throughout this book of Jeremiah we see God using strange ways to illustrate to His people the reality of their fallen condition. This chapter does it again. Jeremiah is asked to invite a Recabite family into a Temple side room and offer them an abundance of wine to drink. Recabites were descended from Jonadab a supporter of King Jehu who we meet in 2 Kings 10:15-23. Jonadab had committed himself and his descendants to serve the king, and a sign of their loyalty practised total abstinence from alcohol. In Jeremiah’s day they were nomads who worked with metal but still did not partake in drinking wine. God knew that when offered wine by Jeremiah they would remain faithful and He wanted to use this as an illustration of not yielding to temptation. God must have longed for His people to portray this kind of steadfastness. In our day do we show the commitment held by those in our past or have we tempted by the pleasures of this world?
Tell me the old, old story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqSIMQaeAds
This old favourite was written by Arabella Hankley (1834-1911). Arabella was brought up in a wealthy and devout Anglican family and moved to London at the age of eighteen in order to teach factory girls about the Bible. About the age of thirty Arabella contracted an illness which confined her to bed for a year and it was during that time she wrote this poem which contained over 100 verses. Thankfully, we do not sing them all! The words motivate us to read the Word of God, ‘simply, as to a little child’. In depth Bible study is, of course, required but we always need to believe as a little child. We are to read the Word ‘often, for I forget too soon.’ Do we forget to read scripture or does its truths get lost in our busy lives? Then finally we need to hear the Word, ‘softly, with earnest tones,’ perhaps unlike in storm and fire, the still small voice is where God speaks to us daily.
Tuesday 17th February.
‘Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll.’
Here God tells Jeremiah that he must write down all the messages, the prophesies that God has given to him. Faithful to the task, Jeremiah hires a scribe called Baruch and they set to work. When the writings were completed, the contents were to be proclaimed to the King and all the people. At this time, the army of Babylon was near to Judah and the people in Jerusalem were terrified, so a fast was declared. Jeremiah should have read the content of the scrolls to the people but the king, Jehoiakim detested Jeremiah and refused to let him speak so Baruch announces the messages given to Jeremiah. One man in the crowd called Micaiah was moved to tell the story to his father Geremiah who was an official of the king. He too was influenced by the writings and knew the king must hear what was written but knew the king would be furious and so advised Baruch and Jeremiah to go into hiding. When the king eventually hears what has been written he cuts the scroll to pieces in the first recording of the destruction of God’s Word. However, Jeremiah and Baruch are undeterred, they begin a second scroll and the words recorded are better and stronger than the first scroll. God’s Word couldn’t be stopped then, nor can it now.
Come let us to the Lord our God with contrite hearts return. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHrDEPPb5n4
Found in our Hymns and Psalm book as Paraphrase 30 this familiar item of praise pleads for a humble return to an awesome God. The Scottish paraphrases were written in a response to a plea around 1780 to be able to sing items beside Psalms only. John Morison who was the minister in Canisbay used Hosea 6:1 as the basis for this praise. ‘Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us, but He will bind up our wounds.’ God wants us to live before Him humbly and walk hand in hand with Him in our daily lives, pride and achievements count for nothing as Psalm 51:17 says, ‘My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. We wander away so easily, but we must turn and return.
Wednesday 18th February.
‘King Zedekiah asked, ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’’
Twenty years have passed since yesterday’s passage and we perhaps have a glimmer of hope for Jerusalem as the Babylonians have lifted their blockade of the city. King Zedekiah requests that Jeremiah will pray that the situation will remain, but Jeremiah restates that the fate of the city is sealed, the blockage will return, and Jerusalem will be defeated. During the respite in the siege, Jeremiah take the opportunity to leave the city to claim his property but Irijah one of the sentries spots him and assumes that he is defecting to the Babylonian camp. Jeremiah is arrested and when officials hear his story, they refuse to believe him, so he is beaten severely and imprisoned. After some time in jail the king sends for Jeremiah and asks him. ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ Perhaps the king hoped that the long incarceration would have made Jeremiah pray for Israel to be delivered but Jeremiah sticks to his to the original word given to him by God. The king wanted God to change but he didn’t want to change himself. Are we guilty of the same ideology?
Change my heart O God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlSmG-_eJTU
This simple worship song with its calm and comforting melody helps us to settle into a prayerful frame of mind. It was written by Eddie Espinosa when he felt that he was too sinful to ever be in God’s presence. He felt that he required a ‘heart transplant,’ his heart must be changed so that he could truly love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. I am sure we can all relate to these circumstances and so we too can use the words prayerfully. ‘Change my heart O God, make it ever true change my heart oh God, may I be like You. You are the potter, I am the clay, mould me and make me this is what I pray.’
‘These men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet.’
Jeremiah was moved from prison to the palace stockade where he was still restricted but able to speak to speak to those who came nearby. He continued to tell them what had been revealed to him. They all must surrender to the Babylonians. When the king’s officials heard what Jeremiah was saying, they went to the king and demanded that Jeremiah be put to death. The king agrees, and so Jeremiah is lowered into a storage cistern which is filled with mud and he is left to slowly be engulfed and die. This must have felt like the end for the prophet, however an Ethiopian official called Ebed-Melech hears what has happened and goes to the king to plead for Jeremiah’s life. The king is won over and Ebed-Melech and thirty assistants are able to pull Jeremiah out of the cloying mud. Ebed-Melech showed individual courage in his goldy actions stating up to the king’s power. Later in 39:15-18 we will see that he is spared when Jerusalem falls. Do we have that courage to speak out against obvious injustice or do we assume that is for someone else to do? Matthew 25:34-40 tells us of our reward in heaven when we stand up for Him.
My heart is filled with thankfulness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qntf2Y_VNok
Another fabulous song from the Townend/Getty combo. Listening to the words we cannot help but wonder at the unbelievable generosity of God. We deserve death and punishment for the wrong that we do in thought, word, and deed, and yet Jesus came and bore that pain. He deserved none of it, His life was with His Father in heaven, experiencing all the wonders and glory there and yet He came and bore the pain we warrant, took on our disgrace, and crushed the curse of our sinfulness, clothing us with His glorious light. Only Jesus could do this and how could our hearts not be filled to the very brim with gratitude to Him? Here is the first verse again just so that we can read it slowly and try to take it all in. ‘My heart is filled with thankfulness, to Him who bore my pain, who plumbed the depths of my disgrace. and gave me life again. Who crushed my curse of sinfulness, and clothed me with His light, and wrote His law of righteousness with power upon my heart.’
Friday 20th February.
‘King Zedekiah said, ‘I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians.’’
Now free from certain death we find Jeremiah back in the hands of the palace guards who will secure him until the city falls into the hands of Babylon. Still king Zedekiah wants reassurance that he and his city will be spared so he arranges to meet Jeremiah, this time in the Temple. The king’s question is the same and leaves Jeremiah with a dilemma, does he tell the truth and risk being executed or does he tell the king what the king wants to hear? Having been assured by the king that his answer will not put his life in danger, Jeremiah tells the king that if he surrenders to the Babylonians, he and his city will be spared but the consequences of failing to surrender were dire. The king swears Jeremiah to keep their meeting secret. What a contrast in characters, Zedekiah the spineless king and Jeremiah the steadfast man of God. Zedekiah was all self-interest and Jeremiah all for God. We too face this daily problem, selfish living or standing firmly on the promises of God.
When the road is rough and steep. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF7xgQwKlpc
Another favourite from childhood for many of us, this chorus written by Norman John Clayton tells us that as Christians we cannot expect the path to always be flat, calm, and smooth, we will pass through many rough times, but we can be totally confident that during these times the Lord is with us. We can repeat the words no matter what age we are. ‘When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus, He alone knows how to keep, fix your eyes upon Him. Jesus is a faithful Friend One on whom you can depend, He is faithful to the end so fix your eyes upon Him.’ What does the road look like for you today, if it looks like an uphill struggle, just keep walking with Jesus, one step at a time. A bike riding friend once told me that tough hill climbs were just ‘negative downhills’ and the view from the top was always worth it. Be encouraged, we are promised God’s help, strength, light, peace, and joy as we journey homeward.
Saturday 21st February.
Jeremiah 39:1-18. ‘Take him and look after him: don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.’
This passage requires a bit of historical insight to fully understand what is happening. King Zedekiah was the son of king Josiah who had ruled for only eleven years. Before the kingdom had been governed by Zedekiah’s older brothers Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim and by his nephew Coniah also called Jehoiachin. When Nebuchadnezzar’s army invaded, Jehoiachin was captured with all his family and deported to Babylon. Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah was made king and his name was changed to Zedekiah. Zedekiah attempted to escape from Jerusalem and its fate, but he was captured and forced to watch the slaughter of his sons before his enemies blinded him and carried him away to Babylon where he later died. Meanwhile in all this affray, Jeremiah is treated by the Babylonians with respect, and perhaps because of their superstitious traditions, he was esteemed as a seer. What a difference in their fates! We are reminded that a God-centred life is often tough but there are always compensations for remaining faithful.
Above all powers, above all kings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_cxhf5ISeg
This version by Lenny LeBlanc is from the words of Michael W Smith. He was involved in his church in West Virginia from an early age. All was going well until be moved away to begin his college studies when feelings of isolation overwhelmed him, and he became reliant on drugs and alcohol. This story perhaps makes us focus today on our need to commit all our young people to God in prayer. The struggles they face seem more complicated than previous generations. Difficulty studying remotely, separation from friends, financial struggles either getting employment or being furloughed, and for those who profess Christ, they need His support (and ours) to remain steadfast in a world that treats Christianity like some sort of science fiction. Today’s praise highlights a Creator who is ultimately in control, above all governments, powers, society, and corrupt individuals. ‘Above all powers, above all kings, above all nature and all created things, above all wisdom and all the ways of man, You were here before the world began. Above all kingdoms. above all thrones, above all wonders the world has ever known, above all wealth and treasures of the earth, there’s no way to measure what you’re worth. Crucified, laid behind the stone, You lived to die, rejected and alone, like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall, and thought of me, above all.’
Sunday 22nd February.
‘So Jeremiah stayed among the people who were left behind in the land.’
Just as Jeremiah had predicted, Jerusalem is in ruins, the captives including Jeremiah are being carried away from their beloved land to slavery and uncertainty. By this time in his life the prophet is about 65 years of age. About five miles outside the ruined city of Jerusalem, the captain of the guard called Nebuzaradan gives Jeremiah a choice. Come to Babylon with us and I will take good care of you or choose anywhere you want, and you can go and live there. Surely an easy choice, a life without care, a happy retirement. His alternative is to go back to a ruined city where the tiny remnants of God’s people remained. Jeremiah was not yet ready to retire and he chose to return to Jerusalem to continue living his life with God in charge in the city of God’s Temple and where he would await God’s instructions.
I will wait for You (Psalm 130) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eJUqY_6tqo
A haunting and powerful item of praise by Keith Getty, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker and Stuart Townend which combines the traditional Psalm singing of Psalm 130 from the psalter with a chorus which encourages us to be patient and wait for God. ‘I will wait for You, I will wait for You, on Your word, I will rely. I will wait for You, surely wait for You, till my soul is satisfied.’ Isn’t it amazing how, when we struggle to put our thoughts and worries into words, there will be a Psalm which says exactly what we feel., and in Psalm 130 when in the depths the psalmist declares that out of the depths of his situation he cried out to God. It was an urgent prayer, he needed help soon. He then emphasises the intensity of God’s forgiveness before declaring his patience to wait for an answer from God. ‘I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His Word, I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.’ Do we have this patience to trust God for answers to our prayers?
Monday 23rd February.
‘They were afraid of them because Ishmael had killed Gedaliah.’
The Babylonians, before they returned home had appointed an associate of Jeremiah’s called Gedaliah to be their governor in Jerusalem. He hadn’t been in post long before an outlaw called Ishmael and a band of terrorists murdered Gedaliah, many Jewish officials, and Babylonian soldiers. He also enticed many from the surrounding areas who wanted to come to the Temple to worship to enter the city where he had them killed and their bodies thrown into a cistern. However a counterattack was organised by Johanan who successfully hounded Ishmael out of the country but was later filled with fear that there would be ramifications from Babylon because of the death of Gedaliah. Ishmael decided to relocate to Egypt, a clear disobedience to God’s plan, for He had forbidden alignment with Egypt (Jer 30:1-3). Egypt must have felt like a welcoming alternative to Jerusalem’s ruins and failed economy. When we face the choice of trusting in God’s plan or putting our faith in what we can actually see do we trust the difficult way or find an escape route?
At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4d4UXSJXig
At the Name of Jesus was written in 1870 by Caroline M Noel who began her hymn writing career at the age of just 17. A debilitating illness overtook Caroline in her late thirties which confined her to bed for the remainder of her life. Unable to do very much she concentrated on writing and published a collection of works called ‘The Name of Jesus,’ which included our hymn for today. The Name of Jesus is used so many times in the Bible in different contexts, the Apostles preached and healed in the Name of Jesus, demons were banished from broken bodies pleading not to be tortured in the Name of Jesus but the text that contains the title is found in Philippians 2:10, ‘that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.’ Although present times show the rise of false prophets and religions, ultimately Jesus wins!
Tuesday 24th February.
‘I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God.’
When Johanan made up his mind to flee to Egypt, he sought out Jeremiah and asked him to seek God’s will on the matter. Jeremiah did as he had been asked and then told Johanan the message God had given to him. If Johanan was willing to remain in Israel then God would be with them and restore them, they did not have to fear the king of Babylon because God was on their side, but if the remnant escaped to Egypt then all that they feared, wars and starvation would be their fate. The communication could not have been clearer but irrespective of it Johanan set off to Egypt taking Jeremiah and Baruch with him. So it was that Jeremiah would not end his days in Jerusalem but in the land where he had warned God’s people not to go to. Even before he consulted with Jeremiah, Johanan had already made up his mind, he didn’t want advice, he just wanted confirmation. Are we open in our prayers to accept when God says something that doesn’t fit in with our preconceived ideas?
Again I include a praise normally reserved for Christmastime. It speaks of the journey Mary and Joseph took in obedience to Roman law but also trusting in God. Many people are on journeys they do not wish to be on, those fleeing persecution for their faith, many escaping cruel wars and famine, but also those who wander this world lost in addiction and homelessness and we need to have hearts to give, and do what we can. For those who cannot access the link above I hope that as you read the lyrics and see the journey a young couple faced to bring the Son of salvation to us all. ‘Mary full of innocence carrying the Holy Prince. you’re almost there, you’re almost there. Mother of the living Word. trusting in the voice you heard You’re almost there, you’re almost there. You’re almost where the angels see redemption’s plan unfolding all hope is in the Son you’ll bear, you’re almost there. A lonely road, a willing heart, pray for strength to do your part You’re almost there, you’re almost there. Trust the Father to provide bread of Heaven prophesied You’re almost there, you’re almost there. You’re almost where the waiting ends delivering the life within the answered prayer, Emmanuel, you’re almost there.’
Wednesday 25th February.
‘The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’’
In disobedience to God’s Word for them, Johanan and his party begin the journey to Egypt, but they make very sure that Jeremiah and Baruch are with them. We are not told if they accompanied Johanan willingly, most likely they were forced to go along as Johanan was of the opinion that if the prophet were with them then God would not allow any of the predicted destruction to occur. Jeremiah’s first action when he arrives in Egypt is to bury paving stones at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace and having done this, he announces that Nebuchadnezzar would in time set up his throne one these very stones. The prediction was fulfilled in 568BC when Babylon invaded Egypt and overthrew the great nation where Johanan had placed all their hopes. The lesson for us is that we often trust people or things that seem robust but if they are not from God, they will ultimately let us down.
I’ve found a Friend Oh such a Friend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5oZq1jtJMo
This hymn is a firm MacDonald family favourite and was the hymn that brought my late mum to know her Saviour. It was written around 1866 by James Grindly Small and published in his book of psalms and sacred songs. James was born in Edinburgh and went to school in the High school there before studying divinity at the University of Edinburgh. After University he joined the Free Church of Scotland taking up a post at Bervie near Montrose. Many have difficulty relating to others and find making friends a problem, but we all have a longing in our souls to have attachments whether that is a friend or a life partner. This hymn tells us of a Friend who has befriended us from the beginning of time, who sticks closer than a brother, who listens even when an earthly friend would have abandoned us and who promises that He will be with us, and for us forever. ‘I’ve found a friend, O such a friend! He loved me ere I knew Him, He drew me with the cords of love, and thus he bound me to Him; and round my heart still closely twine those ties which naught can sever, for I am His, and Christ is mine, forever and forever. I’ve found a friend, O such a friend! so kind and true and tender, so wise a Counsellor and Guide, so mighty a defender! from Him who loves me now so well, what power my soul can sever? shall life or death or earth or hell? No, I am His forever.’
Thursday 26th February.
‘This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in lower Egypt.’
Some months later in Egypt we find Jeremiah doing what he has been doing all his life. He is continuing to speak to God’s rebellious and antagonistic people. He launches a blistering attack on them because of their refusal to consider God’s current word to them and he reminds them that this behaviour in the past is what resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem. He concludes by revealing that their disobedience means that they will never return to Judah. Few listened to the words of the prophet, a small number repented and would escape God’s judgement. If there was any belief in God’s plan for His people is was soon quashed in Egypt. The Israelites became fully engaged in the local culture of idol worship, and debauchery and stubbornly refused to acknowledge that their problems were all caused by breaking their covenant with God. It is a fact that the further we drift from Christian principles the further we drift from God, the more confused our thinking becomes, and we are then more likely to make poorer judgements.
In heavenly love abiding.
This is my favourite hymn and was written by Anna Laetitia Waring around 1850. The words have always spoken to me in hard times to offer me the promise of bright skies ahead. ‘In heavenly love abiding no change my heart shall fear, and safe in such confiding, for nothing changes here. The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me, and can I be dismayed? These last long months have been horrific with the dark clouds of Covid-19 bringing illness, death, and isolation but against that we have here the promise of bright skies to be over us bringing the things we have so yearned for, companionship, hugs and kisses from loved ones, hope for a better, safer, future and improved mental health. God’s faithfulness to us is greater than anything this life can throw at us. ‘Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen. Bright skies will soon be over me, where darkest clouds have been. My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free. My Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.’
Friday 27th February.
Skipping to Jeremiah 51:58-64,
‘Babylon’s thick wall will be levelled.’
Jeremiah’s message from Egypt was distributed into the surrounding lands. In the passage today he enlists Seraiah a diplomatic official to take a message of prediction to Babylon where he is to read it aloud but then roll the scroll round a stone, tie it and throw it into the Euphrates river. The words said that like the scroll, Babylon would sink to rise no more. Could that happen to such a powerful nation? Indeed that is what came to pass about seventy years later. Babylon, built on the original site of the Tower of Babel which clearly represented man’s arrogance before God, lies in ruins. Two cities of contrast, Babylon representing pride and Jerusalem the symbol of God’s peace. Jerusalem remains but Babylon is no more and in Revelation we read that the day is coming when pride will be eradicated from earth and a new Jerusalem will reign. We live in a earthly Babylon with our hearts and minds longing for heaven.
Amazing grace-My chains are gone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbe7OruLk8I
This newer version of perhaps the most popular hymn of modern times was recorded by Chris Tomlin. The original of course penned by the former slave trader John Newton. It speaks of the mercy God affords us by forgiving our wrongs which separate us from Him for all time. We can do nothing to achieve or deserve this, no works, no rituals, no journeys to sacred sites, nothing. Jesus paid the price in total, our bill is settled, no charge, now is that not AMAZING grace. ‘My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Saviour has ransomed me and like a flood His mercy reigns unending love, amazing grace.’ Do we struggle to accept this fact as real? Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Today enjoy that grace and pray for someone we know who is still in need of it.
Saturday 28th February.
‘It is because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah.’
You would think that this final chapter of Jeremiah would be about him, about his final days and how he died but the book of Jeremiah is not about the prophet, it is about the Word that the Lord gave to him. This chapter paraphrases the whole book really and tells of Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon and God’s will. We are told of the destruction of the city, how all the precious artifacts were plundered from the Temple and how all but the poorest were carried away to captivity. It ends with the tale of Judah’s king Jehoiachin who had been imprisoned but having found favour with king Nebuchadnezzar was later released. The ending shows us that things turned out exactly as God had told Jeremiah they would. Great nations will rise and fall but God’s Word will endure forever, and we would do well to hold firmly to it. (This is exactly the way my dear dad led his life, though all his trials he knew that God was in charge and he never wavered from this belief. He passed away on 14th October 2020, mid-way through completing these notes, I will never stop missing him, but I have endeavoured to complete the task he began with the help of his Every day with Jesus notes-Ann).
Lord You are more precious than silver. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsVAGsG_aGA
We’ll end the month with this lovely worship song written by Lynn DeShazo from Birmingham Alabama who has written many well-known songs used in churches today, perhaps you can also listen to, ‘Lead Me to the Rock,’ ‘Turn My Heart,’ ‘Be Magnified,’ ‘Be Unto Your Name,’ ‘Stand Up and Give Him the Praise,’ ‘In Your Presence, O God,’ and ‘Ancient Words.’ How precious is God to us? Do other things or people get in the way? Psalm 119:72 says that Gods Word is precious, ‘The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.’ And again in Psalm 19:10 we read, ‘They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.’ In the shorter Catechism we were taught (I’m using the modern version here) Q. 1. What is the chief purpose for which man is made? And the answer ‘The chief purpose for which man is made is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Let us pray that we will endeavour to value God, His Word, and the astonishing sacrifice He has made to make and keep us as His children, Amen.