Key Texts: Jeremiah 29:1-14; 37:1-10; 38:1-6;
Question: In the light of the horrible events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, do you think Jeremiah would have preferred to die, or suffer through with his fellow countrymen?
Note: God promised Jeremiah that he would make him a “bronze” wall so that he would withstand the opposition of the people (Jer. 1:18; 15:20). But his death wish is suggested in this anguished quote from his “confessions”
14 Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, “A child is born to you, a son,” making him very glad. 16 Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, 17 because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. 18 Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame? – Jer. 20:14-18 (NRSV)
Question: What light does the addition of chapter 52 shed on the composition of the book and its acceptance into the canon? It is a parallel with the last chapter of 2 Kings, describing the destruction of Jerusalem.
Note: While the addition of the last chapter of the book by the “Jeremiah Estate” can be troubling to those who want to believe that every book of the Bible was written in its entirety by the person whose name is assigned to the book, the fact that the “Jeremiah Estate” flagged chapter 52 as a later addition is significant. The last line of Jeremiah 51 simply shouts at us: “Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.”
The highly unpopular prophet Jeremiah, despised by people and leaders alike during this lifetime, was ultimately seen by God’s people as a messenger of truth. To make that point clear, the inspired “editors” of the book simply added the text of the last chapter of 2 Kings, the chapter that describes the fall of Jerusalem. Thus they “proved” that Jeremiah spoke the message of the Lord even though he had been rejected during his lifetime.
Question: With the temple gone, what were the implications for “regular” worship for those in Babylon? For those left in Palestine?
Note: This question has a rich potential for class discussion. What happens when disaster shatters our complacency? Can we learn from disaster or are we destroyed by it? A host of people have told me that the really important things in life they learned through the difficult times. They never would have chosen such trials. But the Lord used them for his purposes.
In that connection we can focus on those familiar lines from the KJV of Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good.” The NIV margin seems to have a much more realistic perspective in a world where so much seems to result in evil: “in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.” Two of my favorite commentaries on that question – already cited in lesson 6 – are among my favorites, one from George MacDonald, one from Paul Tournier:
George MacDonald: It is so true, as the Book says, that all things work together for our good, even our sins and vices. He takes our sins on himself, and while he drives them out of us with a whip of scorpions, he will yet make them work his good ends. He defeats our sins, makes them prisoners, forces them into the service of good, and chains them like galley slaves to the rowing benches of the gospel ship. He makes them work toward salvation for us. – George MacDonald, “The Bloodhound,” The Curate’s Awakening (Bethany, 1985), 200
Paul Tournier: The most wonderful thing in this world is not the good that we accomplish, but the fact that good can come out of the evil we do. I have been struck, for example, by the numbers of people who have been brought back to God under the influence of a person to whom they had some imperfect attachment…. Our vocation is, I believe, to build good out of evil. For if we try to build good out of good, we are in danger of running out of raw materials. – Paul Tournier, Person Reborn, 80-81, via Philip Yancey, Reaching for an Invisible God, 264.
Question: What role does a sense of place play in our worship today? Can we worship God without a specific worship home?
Question: Given the rather modest number of people who returned to Jerusalem after the 70 years were up, was Jeremiah’s promise of a return after 70 years a real event? Was it conditional?