The Lord Establishes

by LA UBF   11/02/2008     0 reads


The Lord establishes���

 The Lord Establishes

Jeremiah 1:1-52:43

Key Verse 1:9,10

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."

Welcome to the study of the book of Jeremiah. The title of the Bible study for tonight is, "The Lord Establishes." This title comes from the name of the author of the book, Jeremiah, for in Hebrew Jeremiah means, "The Lord establishes." 

Like many other books of the Bible, such as Isaiah or Proverbs, the book of Jeremiah shares at the outset of the book its contents and purpose. In Chapter 1 the Lord calls Jeremiah as the prophet for the kingdom of Judah as well as other nations and kingdoms of his day. In so calling the Lord identified the reason why he called Jeremiah. Pursuant to the purpose of the Lord's calling Jeremiah prophesied about the destiny of Judah and other surrounding nations. Jeremiah then reduced his prophesies to writings which became known as the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:9-10 sum up the contents of the prophesies. Let us read this passage again. 

We can divide the prophetic works described here into two parts: 1) the work to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow; and 2) the work to build and to plant. 

I. the work to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow

“Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:9-10).

The Lord established the Prophet Jeremiah to speak the words of the Lord, prophesying about the things of the future for the people of Judah and the surrounding nations. Mostly, the contents of the prophecy consisted of bad news, such as the Babylonian exile.  

During the forty years before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord prophesied again and again why bad things (like a seize of or attacks on Jerusalem) are going to happen, if they happen at all. In so prophesying the Lord warned the people that if they reformed their ways the Lord would change his mind, so that disasters like invasion by foreign armies would not occur. Despite the Lord's repeated warnings, however, the people of Judah did not listen. And so Jerusalem fell. The temple came down. Drought, famine, and sword fell upon Judah. The kingdom of Judah ceased to exist. The Babylonian exile followed. 

Here one question arises: The Lord must have known in advance that his children would not listen, and therefore they would all suffer from all the disasters the Lord would send them. Yet, why did the Lord keep telling them about the reasons for the disasters? Most of us, especially those who know what it is to learn things a hard way, may already have the answer: that is, for the Lord to teach his children to not despair with failures, but rather learn a lesson through failures. 

We can categorize people into three categories: those who learn without failures; those who learn through failures; and those who do not learn despite failures. The first category of people is, however, "non-existent." In theory, it is possible that you can learn without failing. But in reality, since all fail at least in one area or another, people belonging to this category do not exist. After all, all human beings came from one person, Adam - the father of all failures. Therefore, in reality, there are only two categories of people: those who learn through failures, and those who do not learn despite failures. 

The next question then is: what makes the difference? Why does someone learn through failures, whereas some never learn from failures? We know the answer: the people belonging to the latter class do not learn because they do not know why they fail, if they fail.

Thanks and praise be to the Lord God then that, in order to help his children learn a lesson despite (or through) failures, the Lord explained through Jeremiah to the people of Judah again and again that bad things such as drought, famine, sword or plague would hit them, all for a reason: "deserting the Lord." 

As we see in the Scriptures, such as Deuteronomy, the Lord God had prophesied through many of his servants, such as Moses, that when the nation Israel loves the Lord fully the Lord would exalt (or establish) her "high" above all nations. If however they stray from the Lord, they would suffer from all kinds of disasters. 

Let us turn the clock backward a little bit and see what the Lord did for the Israelites until the day of Jeremiah. As the Book of Exodus testifies, while the Israelites lived in Egypt they lived as a slave nation. While they were there Pharaoh worked them mercilessly. Because they had no other alternatives, they worked and worked. But no matter how hard they worked, they could never satisfy Pharaoh. So they cried out to the Lord. In great mercy the Lord liberated them from the bondage to slavery to Pharaoh. The Lord brought them to Mt. Sinai where the Lord wooed them to enter into a covenant relationship with him. Through the desert wanderings the Lord showed them mercy and grace. Then through the desert lands they journeyed together to the Promised Land. After forty years of journeying, the Lord sent them into the Promised Land. There the Israelites received the opportunity to build a future for themselves. Building a sweet home in the land of Canaan however would not come at random. As Moses' Ten Commandments testify they would build a home only when they worked on it "together" with the Lord. But as the generations progressed, they conveniently forgot the Lord. They tried to build their own kingdom on their own. What was the result? As we saw in the book of Isaiah, by the time the Prophet Isaiah started prophesying they all became like a man covered with leprosy. By the time Jeremiah came to serve the kingdom of Judah, the spiritual tumor called sin spread through the entire body of Judah. [Read Jeremiah 17:1-4 concerning the degree to which the sinful lifestyle progressed among them. Read also 5:1-11.] 

Finally, in the days of Jeremiah they became like a woman who, after divorcing her husband, has gone to another husband (3:1). Another way to describe the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day is a linen belt that has become useless (13:7). In this way, by the time Jeremiah came to prophecy, the people of Judah became "utterly unfaithful" to the Lord. 

Yet, amazingly, the Lord kept on loving them; in love the Lord established Jeremiah and kept telling them why disasters (drought, famine, sword, plague) would hit them. And he did it in the hope that his children would someday learn from their failures, come back to their senses, and turn to the Lord meaning business. 

As the Scriptures say, "love never fails." Indeed, the Lord's love, especially the love that disciplines his children, paid off and is still paying off. According to one Rabbi, whose name I forgot, there exists one night when the whole community of the Israelites learned far much more than all the lessons they ever learned in the past or are going to learn in the future. And that night was the night when the Jerusalem temple came down. 

"Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow..." When the Lord called Jeremiah the Lord already foresaw the day of Jerusalem temple coming down. As prophesied, indeed, the Lord "uprooted" what he had planted. Does this mean that the Israelites were all washed out? No. Why not? 

II. The work to build and to plant

Jeremiah 1:10 continues to read, "…to build and to plant." The expression “to build and to plant” refers to the work the Lord planned to accomplish among his children after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity.  

In regard to the hope for the exiles to return to the Promised Land, even before sending them into the Babylon, the Lord foretold that the exile would be only for a limited period of time (70 years) (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10). In order to encourage them not to despair because of the tribulation and exile but have the hope for safe return and make a new beginning, the Lord shared with them the plans he had for them: "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." These words are the language of the Father who dearly loves his children, for which father does not discipline his children. And which father is not mindful of the hope and future for his children? When human fathers, though they are evil know how to work for the hope and future of their children, how much more wouldn't our heavenly Father who is perfect work for the future of his children (Jeremiah 30 - 33)? 

To ensure the well being of his children then, even while the rumors of war were running wild throughout the Judaic Kingdom, the Lord gave them the promise of the great shepherd coming to the city, to tend his flock that they would no longer be terrified (Read 23:5-6; 33:14-16). According to this promise he indeed sent Jesus Christ, the good shepherd. 

In conclusion, Jeremiah testifies to its readers the truth that the Lord establishes. All have the desire to be established. No one wants to see the work of their hands perish. The question then is, “How can we see the work of our hands be established for good?” The book of Jeremiah answers the question: it can become a reality when each person repents and turns to the Lord, and then remains in the Lord. Since it is the Lord who establishes, each and every day we are called to humble ourselves and turn to the Lord, so that as we submit ourselves to the Lord, the Lord would forgive us of our sins, help us learn to love the Lord through failures, and build us up and plant all of us all in him--so we would all be raised, exalted, and firmly established in the Lord. 

One word: the Lord establishes

Class Exercises:

1. According to Jeremiah 1:9-10 the Lord put his words in the mouth of Jeremiah "to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." What does this passage tell us about the words of the Lord? 

2. Which Bible verse(s) best describes the contents of the book of Jeremiah? ___________

3. Which Bible verse (in the book of Jeremiah) expressly says that the Lord uses surrounding nations to "discipline" his children? _____________

4. Who [in the Scriptures] prayed to the Lord saying, "Establish the work of our hands for us"? _________________ 

5. What do the following expressions (in the Bible) have in common?

a) Dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19)

b) You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. (John 15:16a)

c)  The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. (Heb 12:27; Haggai 2:6)

d) Inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (1Pe 1:4)

e) A faithful and wise servant - Matthew 24:45

The end.

      Jeremiah can also be interpreted to mean, "the Lord raises" or "the Lord exalts". These interpretations supplement each other in that in order for one to be established, one must first be raised up to a certain position. Then as the Lord exalts, he rises to higher levels. Thereafter one can get established in an exalted state. 

      Jeremiah prophesied for forty years, after which the Kingdom of Judah was no more; the Jerusalem temple came down, and the people of Judah went to Babylon in exile. 

      The Lord kept prompting his children to learn even without getting whipped, through Jeremiah, saying, "Reform your ways and actions...then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you." Read Jeremiah 7:3; 18:11; 26:13; and 35:15. 


      For the overall plan to build and plant them in the Promised Land, read the following verses: 3:14-18; 16:14-15; 23:3-8; 24:4-7; and 30:1-33:26. 

      We can divide the book of Jeremiah into two parts: Chapters 1-45 and Chapters 46-53. The first part describes the Lord's dealings with Judah, whereas the second part deals with the Lord's judgments on the surrounding nations (such as Egypt, Philistia, and Babylon). We can compare these two parts with an analogy of a father holding a rod with which he disciplines his son. Imagine a teacher or a father spanking a student or a son. In Proverbs 23:13 King Solomon says, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die." In the first part of Jeremiah the Lord God is training his children. The second part can be compared to a rod, for the Lord God uses surrounding nations such as Egypt or Babylon. After a father spanks a son with a paddle or a training rod the father throws away the whip. Likewise in order to train his children the Lord raised Babylon, for example, as one of the whips. After training the Israelites the Lord then throws away the whip. [Note: the Northern Kingdom Israel went into exile 133 years prior to the exile of the Southern kingdom Judah.] In both cases (Israel and Judah) the Lord used Babylon as a training instrument.