Thursday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Jeremiah 44-47 (NKJV)
44:1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews who dwell in the land of Egypt, who dwell at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, 3 because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers. 4 However I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!” 5 `But they did not listen or incline their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods. 6 So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day.’
7 “Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and infant, out of Judah, leaving none to remain, 8 in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to dwell, that you may cut yourselves off and be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth? 9 Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers.’
11 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe and for cutting off all Judah. 12 And I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to dwell there, and they shall all be consumed and fall in the land of Egypt. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine. They shall die, from the least to the greatest, by the sword and by famine; and they shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse and a reproach! 13 For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, 14 so that none of the remnant of Judah who have gone into the land of Egypt to dwell there shall escape or survive, lest they return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return and dwell. For none shall return except those who escape.'”
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! 17 But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. 18 But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
19 The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”
20 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people—the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer—saying: 21 “The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and did it not come into His mind? 22 So the LORD could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day. 23 Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day.”
24 Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people and to all the women, “Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt! 25 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.”
‘You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’ 26 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord GOD lives.” 27 Behold, I will watch over them for adversity and not for good. And all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end to them. 28 Yet a small number who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there, shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs.
29 ‘And this shall be a sign to you,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for adversity.’ 30 Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, his enemy who sought his life.'”
45:1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”‘ 4 Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. 5 And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the LORD. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”‘”
46:1 The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the nations.
2 Against Egypt.
Concerning the army of Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, which was by the River Euphrates in Carchemish, and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
3 “Order the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle! 4 Harness the horses, and mount up, you horsemen! Stand forth with your helmets, polish the spears, put on the armor! 5 Why have I seen them dismayed and turned back? Their mighty ones are beaten down; They have speedily fled, and did not look back, for fear was all around,” says the LORD. 6 “Do not let the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; They will stumble and fall toward the north, by the River Euphrates.
7 “Who is this coming up like a flood, whose waters move like the rivers? 8 Egypt rises up like a flood, and its waters move like the rivers; And he says, ‘I will go up and cover the earth, I will destroy the city and its inhabitants.’ 9 Come up, O horses, and rage, O chariots! And let the mighty men come forth: The Ethiopians and the Libyans who handle the shield, and the Lydians who handle and bend the bow. 10 For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; It shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; For the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates.
11 “Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines; You shall not be cured. 12 The nations have heard of your shame, and your cry has filled the land; For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; They both have fallen together.”
13 The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon would come and strike the land of Egypt.
14 “Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; Proclaim in Noph and in Tahpanhes; Say, ‘Stand fast and prepare yourselves, for the sword devours all around you.’ 15 Why are your valiant men swept away? They did not stand because the LORD drove them away. 16 He made many fall; Yes, one fell upon another. And they said, ‘Arise! Let us go back to our own people and to the land of our nativity from the oppressing sword.’ 17 They cried there, ‘Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise. He has passed by the appointed time!’
18 “As I live,” says the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts, “Surely as Tabor is among the mountains and as Carmel by the sea, so he shall come. 19 O you daughter dwelling in Egypt, prepare yourself to go into captivity! For Noph shall be waste and desolate, without inhabitant.
20 “Egypt is a very pretty heifer, but destruction comes, it comes from the north. 21 Also her mercenaries are in her midst like fat bulls, for they also are turned back, they have fled away together. They did not stand, for the day of their calamity had come upon them, the time of their punishment. 22 Her noise shall go like a serpent, for they shall march with an army and come against her with axes, like those who chop wood. 23 “They shall cut down her forest,” says the LORD, “Though it cannot be searched, because they are innumerable, and more numerous than grasshoppers. 24 The daughter of Egypt shall be ashamed; She shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.”
25 The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will bring punishment on Amon of No, and Pharaoh and Egypt, with their gods and their kings—Pharaoh and those who trust in him. 26 And I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of his servants. Afterward it shall be inhabited as in the days of old,” says the LORD.
27 “But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid. 28 Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the LORD, “For I am with you; For I will make a complete end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, for I will not leave you wholly unpunished.”
47:1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.
2 Thus says the LORD:
“Behold, waters rise out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood; They shall overflow the land and all that is in it, the city and those who dwell within; Then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall wail. 3 At the noise of the stamping hooves of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers will not look back for their children, lacking courage, 4 because of the day that comes to plunder all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains; For the LORD shall plunder the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor. 5 Baldness has come upon Gaza, Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley. How long will you cut yourself?
6 “O you sword of the LORD, how long until you are quiet? Put yourself up into your scabbard, rest and be still! 7 How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD has given it a charge against Ashkelon and against the seashore? There He has appointed it.”
The Jews who were determined to go to Egypt were not simply weak believers in the true God who were suffering and wondering what to do. They were idolatrous unbelievers, committed to worship the “queen of heaven” instead of the Lord from now on. For them, there was no comfort from the Lord, but only more words of judgment.
In contrast, Baruch, Jeremiah’s faithful assistant, was a struggling believer who mourned over the hardships he was facing in Israel. “Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest!” Through Jeremiah the Lord comforted Baruch. Part of that comfort was the reminder that the Lord had not promised prosperity for Judah at that time, but destruction. “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh.”
Throughout the Bible God sternly rebukes the unbeliever, even as he suffers for his unbelief, while He speaks to His suffering children in Christ with words of strength, forgiveness and comfort. The truth has always been that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Those of us who live through the dying days of this Earth should not “seek great things” for ourselves. But in the midst of disaster God still speaks to us as He once did to the Church in Revelation, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending.” (TLH, 260, st. 4)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.