Psalm 105:1–7; Jeremiah 31:23–32:15; 2 Timothy 3:1–9

Originally published 9/02/2017. Revised and updated 9/02/2019.

Psalm 105:1–7: This psalm, which will provide a poetic summary of Israel’s history, opens on with a stanza of pure joyful worship:
Acclaim the Lord, call out His name,
make His deeds known among the peoples.
Sing to Him, hymn to Him,
speak of all His wonders.
Revel in His holy name.
Let the heart of the Lord’s seekers rejoice.
Inquire of the Lord His strength,
seek His presence always. (1-4)

This psalmist is certainly not advocating reverent silence. It is all about being verbal before God. We are to acclaim, make his deeds known, sing, hymn, and speak. Which are certainly all the elements of serious worship. There is also a missionary quality here that I think Jesus picks up on when he tells his disciples to “Go to all the world and preach the Good News.” The other key to true worship is that it is a joy-filled event. We are to revel in God’s name and rejoice in our hearts. For this psalmist, dour, perfunctory worship cannot be true worship.

Our psalmist asks us to remember the past as he turns to the main theme of the poem, which is to recount Israel’s history in poetic form. Now things become a bit more somber as both the happy and then not-so-happy events of Israel’s past and its often fraught relationship to God are recalled:
Recall the wonders that He did,
His portent and the judgements He issued,
O seed of Abraham his servant,
sons of Jacob, His chosen ones. (5-6)

Above all else, though, we cannot recite history without acknowledging God’s preeminence over all things and all human events:
He is the Lord our God—
through all the earth, His judgements. (7)

Even though the psalmist has written for his people, this last verse holds true across all time down to today. God is indeed over all the earth and we would do well to remember that always.

Jeremiah 31:23–32:15: The great promise of return concludes on a joyful note as Jeremiah predicts that all Israel will return to God and worship him alone: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its towns when I restore their fortunes:

“The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness,
    O holy hill!” (31:23)

Not only will Israel’s and Judah’s fortunes be restored, but there is an even greater promise to those who are discouraged—and I pretty sure that everyone in exile in Babylon would be discouraged at this point:
I will satisfy the weary,
    and all who are faint I will replenish. (25)

Which is promise that holds true for us today in our own times of discouragement and distress.

We find out rather abruptly that the preceding chapter was Jeremiah’s dream: “Thereupon I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.” (31:26) So, we have to ask, are these promises real or are they simply wishful thinking by Jeremiah as he awakens to the grim reality that is around him? I prefer to think that God spoke to Jeremiah through his dream.

Perhaps what is most remarkable is a sudden shift in how God will judge sinners. Up to this point he has judged—and punished— the entire nation for the sins (mainly) of its corrupt leadership. But in this restored Israel, “they shall no longer say:

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (31:29)

Rather, as Paul clearly lays it out in his epistles, it is the individual sinner who will be held to account by God: “But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.” (31:30) Paul’s famous verses in Romans, among them, “the wages of sin is death,” have deep roots here in Jeremiah. He was not just making up a brand new theology.

We come to what I think is one of the more remarkable prophecies in this book as Jeremiah, as always speaking in God’s voice, predicts the advent of a New Covenant: It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors …—a covenant that they broke—…But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (31:33)

The image of God’s promise being written on our hearts is striking and it is permanent. In what I think is a clear prophecy of God’s plan for a New Covenant through Jesus Christ, God announces, “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord” (31:34a)

For me, this promise can mean nothing less than the coming of Jesus and then the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. Moreover, our sins will be forgiven as God states clearly, “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” (31:35)

The wonderful thing of course is the Holy Spirit can be written on the heart of all who believe, not just the Jews.

Chapter 32 is straight up narrative—and as usual, the timeline is confusing. King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah why he’s so sure that Jerusalem will fall to the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah replies that Jeremiah’s cousin, “Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” (32:6) Jeremiah takes this as confirmation of his prophecy: “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” (32:8) Hanamel obviously feels something bad is about to happen and he wants to be unencumbered by real estate.

Jeremiah buys the field for 17 shekels of silver and “signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales.” (32:9) He hands the deed over to a certain Baruch, asking him to “put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time.” (32:14) Jeremiah asserts that “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” (32:15)

The implication here is that while Judah will fall to the Babylonians, and while his cousin thinks that will be  a permanent state and he should take the money and run, Jeremiah knows that, Israel’s land will one day be restored and real estate transactions may once again take place.

2 Timothy 3:1–9: This reading perfectly captures the zeitgeist of our own times. Our author felt the end times were imminent because of the evidences of societal corruption all around him. He advises Timothy in what I have to admit certainly sounds like a particularly lengthy Pauline list of bad things, “in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!”  (2-5)

I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take long to come up with contemporary examples for every one of these negative qualities.

Alas, we come to more evidence of the author’s low view of women as he basically accuses them of being unteachable, always seeking after the newest cool theology from the latest guru: “For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (6,7)

Wow. That sounds pretty much like today’s various spiritual quests when I hear people (not just women) say that they “are spiritual but not religious,” which is ultimately exactly as our author asserts here: an empty, never-ending quest. We cannot find God through crystals or within ourselves.

He goes on to assert that just as “Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth.” (8) Goodness knows there are plenty of these people out there, many of them on TV asking for their viewer’s money. Our author promises, “they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of [Jannes and Jambres] their folly will become plain to everyone.” (9)

I wish I could be as optimistic as our author about this. Unquenchable folly seems to characterize our present age.

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