Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 14: Friday
but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth;
for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me,” saith the Lord.
Friday’s Bible reading is Jeremiah 7–11. Today’s reading contains Jeremiah’s third message, 7:1–10:25, “the illusions of Temple security,” and most of his fourth message, 11:1–12:27, “Jeremiah and the Covenant.” (His first: 2:1–3:5, “the sin of apostasy”; his second: 3:6–6:30, “the prospect of judgment.”).1
Notice the many times you see deceit, lies, or similar words describe the people and their leaders. If you’re familiar with John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, the phrase, valiant for the truth, will sound familiar. Derek Kidner tells us:
“The fine character in Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr Valiant-for-truth, was named in robust contrast to the men of 9:3 who, in AV‘s phrase, ‘are not valiant for the truth upon the earth.”2
Judah is a people who are not valiant for truth. The word translated as lie, deceit, etc., is used more often in Jeremiah than in any other book in the Old Testament.3
Look also for the word, heart, as you are reading through Jeremiah. Only the books of Psalms and Proverbs use the word more than Jeremiah does.4 The New Bible Commentary: Revised notes:
“The heart is the very basis of character, including mind and will, in the Old Testament.”5
Watch for the people’s attitudes toward God, their actions, and what they trust and rely upon.
Pray and ask God to give you an understanding of who He is as you read these chapters. If you’re not familiar with the historical background, go back to Jeremiah 1–6: Broken Cisterns & Living Waters. Don’t be apprehensive of doing the reading even if you don’t know all of the background; God’s Word is always profitable.
When reading the prophets I have found over and over that they bring me to a better understanding of who God in His holiness and righteous judgment of sin. When I read of the litany of sins of Israel or Judah, I better understand my own heart, my own sin, and my own need of forgiveness. The prophets also teach me the depth of God’s compassion and love, because when I’m in the midst of reading about the horrific things done by His people, I’m amazed to find passages on God’s great love for a nation saturated in rebellion and wickedness.
Chapter 7 opens with God telling Jeremiah to go to the temple:
“Stand in the gate of the house of Yahweh, and you shall call out there this word, and you shall say, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship Yahweh!’”
Jeremiah is to expose their deceit.
“In Isaiah’s day, people had trusted in a ‘refuge of lies’, telling themselves that the worst could never happen (Is. 28:15, 17). Here was something more blatant: treating the temple as a ‘safe house’ against not just the enemy, but the Lord.
“God’s answer to the parrot-cry The temple of the Lord begins with an appeal to conscience (3–7), to reason (8–11) and to history (12–15).”6
Jeremiah’s proclamation at the temple ends in 8:1–3. Kidner aptly describes what is coming, “In death dishonour, in life despair.”7 As you continue reading, note what Judah has done and how God will judge them.
They are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
And what kind of wisdom do they have?
Therefore I will give their wives to others,
Their fields to new owners;
Because from the least even to the greatest
Everyone is greedy for gain;
From the prophet even to the priest
Everyone practices deceit.
They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace.
Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done?
They certainly were not ashamed,
And they did not know how to blush;
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time of their punishment they shall be brought down,”
Says the Lord.
Cawley and Millard describe Jeremiah 8:18–9:22 as “The agony.”
“In this deeply moving message the prophet reflects in his own heart the anguish of God, as He shares His people’s grief, 8:18-22), grieves over their sin (9:1-6), and calls them to lament in the face of inevitable judgment (9:7-22).”8
Do you begin to see why God chose Jeremiah, a man of sensitivity and depth of emotion? God was sending judgment upon Judah for its vast array of wickedness. He also grieved over His people. His message of judgment was given by a man who was stricken by his message and lamented for his people. Go forward to Jeremiah 17.
Save me and I will be saved,
For You are my praise.
Behold, they keep saying to me,
“Where is the word of Yahweh?
Let it come now!”
But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You,
Nor have I longed for the sickening day;
You Yourself know that the utterance of my lips
Was in Your presence.
Kidner comments that here is Jeremiah “as a preacher smitten by his own message (14); as a prophet without honour (15); and as a bearer of news for which he had no relish (16).”9 R. K. Harrison writes:
“Jeremiah is unusual among the Hebrew prophets because of the extent to which he revealed his personal feelings. Whereas others delivered their oracles without disclosing much of their inner selves, Jeremiah effectively lays bare the turbulent emotions of a man somewhat against his will to be God’s spokesman to his generation.
“…One important part of his spiritual legacy to mankind was his ability to make his religious life a matter of an essentially personal relationship with God, a situation largely forced upon him by the nature of the persecution which he had to endure.
“…Much of his emotional conflict was governed by the fact that, as one who loved north and south alike, he was understandably reluctant to proclaim the doom shortly to descend upon a nation stuck in the morass of idolatry and apostasy. Yet so strong was his fidelity to his prophetic mission that he pronounced impending calamity fearlessly, despite the outraged cries, the vituperation and the incessant hostility alike of the nobility and the general populace.”10
When Francis Schaeffer wrote, Death in the City, he drew from the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, application for the message of judgment needed in our times. He saw Jeremiah a model for us as we speak to our time.
“There is in all of this a time for tears. It will not do to say these things coldly. Jeremiah cried, and we must cry for the poor lost world, for we are all one of a kind…with tears the message must be clear: our culture, our country, our churches have walked upon what God has given us, and thus all these are under the judgment of God.”11
In Jeremiah 10, he cries out:
“Do not learn the way of the nations,
And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens
Although the nations are terrified by them;
For the statutes of the peoples are vanity
Because it is wood cut from the forest,
The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.
They make it beautiful with silver and with gold;
They strengthen it with nails and with hammers
So that it will not totter.
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried
Because they cannot take a step!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good.”
God condemns their worship of idols, its detestable acts, and their superstitious delusion that the blocks of wood they carve and gild are gods (7:8–10, 17–18, 30–31; 8:1–2, 19; 10:1–11, 14–15; 11:9–13, 17). My pastor, Mike Braun, taught that when there is idol worship there is always violence and sexual immorality.
Derek Kidner has this to say about the appeal of the delusion of idols:
“Why did so easy a target as idolatry need so many attacks in the Old Testament? [Chapter 10] Verse 9 suggests one reason: the appeal of the visually impressive; but perhaps verse 2 goes deeper, in pointing to the temptation to fall in step with the majority. What ‘everybody’ does may be solemn nonsense (3ff., 14–15), and the fashionable thinkers stupid and foolish (8) theologically (which is where it matters); but it may take God to say so, and the godly to see it. This perception, incidentally, is one of the blessings of thoughtful worship, as seen in the psalm of verses 6–16. As it dwells on the incomparable Lord and his writ that runs world-wide (6-10); on his creatorship, as the one who formed all things (16); and on his commitment to his people, who mean everything to him, and he (by rights) to them (16b, a); so the glamour of the gods who are made to measure disappears, and the reproach of belonging to a minority becomes an honour.”12
Jeremiah goes on to contrast idols, mere blocks of wood and metal, with the living God.
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!
For among all the wise men of the nations
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You.
But they are altogether senseless and foolish;
They are in a discipline of vanities—it is mere wood!
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
And gold from Uphaz,
The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith;
Blue and purple are their clothing;
They are all the work of wise craftsmen.
But Yahweh is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King.
At His wrath the earth quakes,
And the nations cannot endure His indignation.
As you read Jeremiah also note what you learn about who God is. Write it down to help you remember. Chapter 10 is one place to look, but you learn about who God is throughout today’s reading. Chapter 9 contains one of my favorite passages, and I include it time and again when I am teaching women about why we study the Bible.
Jeremiah’s fourth message, “Jeremiah and the Covenant,” begins in chapter 11.13 Kidner writes:
“When the lost book of the law was found in the temple in Josiah’s eighteenth year (621), the king had it read out to a great gathering in the temple court, and led his people in a renewed covenant ‘to perform the words of the covenant what were written in this book’. The story can be read in 2 Chronicles 34:8ff., especially verses 29–33.
“Our chapter arises, it seems, directly out of this, and gives a fascinating glimpse of the cross-currents beneath the surface of this great reform. King Josiah saw to it that it remained the established faith, ‘all his days’ (2 Ch. 24:33); but he could not change the hearts and habits of his people. That comes out in two ways here: first in the nation-wide idolatry that refused to be stamped out (9–17), and secondly, at the local level, in the conspiracy against Jeremiah’s life by the men of his own village (18–23), apparently for prophesying in support of the reform”14
Next week’s reading continues Jeremiah’s fourth message in which he echoes Job’s cries in the opening verses of Jeremiah 12, “be addressing himself to the age-long problem of the success of the wicked.”15
Take time to ponder Jeremiah’s words, and ask God to teach you what you need to know and do.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Architectural model of the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem, 1883. After a design by Thomas Newberry, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public domain. Click the image to enlarge. Here is a video close-up.
AV: Authorized (King James) Version
2,6,7,9,12,14Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah: Against wind and tide (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1987) 54–55, 49, 51, 74, 56, 58.
3“Lie,” BibleWebApp. Developed by Digital Bible Society with major contributions from John Dyer and Michael Johnson. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
4“Heart,” BibleWebApp. Developed by Digital Bible Society with major contributions from John Dyer and Michael Johnson. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
5The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970). I have this written out on a slip of paper, but I failed to write down the page or the article in which I found it! Since TNBC is over a 1000 pages, I’ve yet to track it down.
1,8,13,15F. Cawley and A. R. Millard, “Jeremiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 635, 629, 630, 632; 634; 635; 636.
10R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentation (Inter-Varsity Press, London: 1973) 34–36.
11Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1969) 71.
Further reading: Sharon James, “Death in the City,” Tabletalk, January 30, 2023. An Outreach of Ligonier © 2023.
I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.
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