WEEK 48, DAY 2

Jeremiah 39-40 Read Text; Hebrews 13 Read Text

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Jeremiah 39-40
Jerusalem falls; Jeremiah’s dire predictions all come true, in gruesome detail. Nearly everyone is carted off to Babylon.

The king of Babylon makes provision for Jeremiah to be taken care of. The Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah from the cistern is reassured with lovely, quotable lines God gives Jeremiah to speak to him (39:16-18).

Given the choice to come to Babylon or remain, Jeremiah opts to stay, and is given an allowance. Expat Judeans, hearing that a remnant has been left in the land, return themselves; they “gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance” (40:12). The newly appointed governor sees through a bit of treachery.

Hebrews 13
As it winds down, Hebrews moves to practical aspects of day-to-day living: mutual love; hospitality; remembering those in prison; faithful marriage; avoiding greed; contentment (v. 1-6); respect for leaders; prudence about “strange teachings” and “regulations” (v. 9); doing good and sharing what you have (v. 16).

A wonderful image about Jesus (v. 12) leads to the invitation to “go out to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (v. 13-14).

Requests for prayer, a benediction we hear in our services, and greetings conclude this powerful letter.


WEEK 48, DAY 1

Jeremiah 37-38 Read Text; Hebrews 12 Read Text

“Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Jeremiah 37-38
We now jump forward to the reign of Zedekiah, Nebuchadrezzar’s puppet, notable for his irresponsible, selfish and fickle attitudes. Jeremiah’s continually thankless task is to deliver more terrible news: whatever the present circumstances (the Chaldeans going away, Egyptians retreating too), everyone who doesn’t surrender will regret it, and Jerusalem will burn. God will see to it.

For telling this truth, Jeremiah ends up in prison, then in “the court of the guard,” then at the bottom of a muddy cistern. He is pulled out of the cistern by an Ethiopian eunuch, and returns to the court of the guard. He counsels Zedekiah to surrender, but is ignored.

Hebrews 12
The rousing culmination: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . .” (v. 1-14):
– “Lay aside every weight”
– “Run with perseverance”
– Do not “grow weary or lose heart”
– “Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord”
– “Endure trials”
– “. . .be willing to be subject to the Father”
– “Lift your drooping hands”
– “Pursue peace with everyone”
Why? Because “you have come to . . . the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . and to Jesus” (v. 24). Through v. 29’s galvanizing assertion, it’s a vivid, inspiring call.

WEEK 47, DAY 6

Jeremiah 35-36 Read Text; Hebrews 11 Read Text

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.”

Jeremiah 35-36
Now back to “the days of King Jehoiakim” (35:1). God has Jeremiah set up a little experiment with the Rechabites, using them as an example to contrast with the disobedient, unfaithful people of Judah. God respects and rewards the Rechabites’ fidelity.

Next, the matter of the scroll. The LORD commands Jeremiah to write down “all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations” (36:2). The people hear it and proclaim a fast, but the king throws the scroll into the fire. Jeremiah hides from arrest, and God tells him to write it all again, adding condemnation of Jehoiakim.

Hebrews 11
A whole chapter on faith—starting with a famous definition (v. 1), followed by the stories of patriarchs and other Bible heroes, from Abel to Rahab: too many examples to recount them all. It integrates the revelation of the new covenant with Israel’s history and scripture, a reminder that the same attitude of belief and trust in God—of faith—that believers are now called to has animated all the greatest figures in Israel’s story.

There is a great deal here to cherish, but don’t miss v. 38, “. . . of whom the world was not worthy.” Read in context, it will bring you up short.

WEEK 47, DAY 5

Jeremiah 33-34 Read Text; Hebrews 10 Read Text

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

Jeremiah 33-34
Another word from the LORD during Jeremiah’s imprisonment: this time, the promises of future reconciliation are mingled with predictions of near-term doom. In the midst of this, descriptions of shepherds and flocks (33:12-13) may bring to mind Luke 2:8-20.

Allusions to Jesus don’t stop there. From 33:14 to the end of the chapter, it’s all about David’s throne, with a messianic reference—“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David” (33:15)—and the unbreakable nature of God’s covenant.

Meantime, though, God is none too happy with Zedekiah, especially regarding slavery and his duplicity.

Hebrews 10
More on the theme of Christ as the fulfillment of the law, with a quote from Psalm 40:6-8 to bolster the argument that what Christ has done replaces—fulfills—what the former sacrifices merely foreshadowed. Psalm 110:1 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 are invoked to sum things up.

This all gives believers confidence to “enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)” (v. 19-20)—more references to the temple. But it also creates the imperative to take advantage of all this—not to “shrink back” (v. 38-19).

WEEK 47, DAY 4

Jeremiah 31-32 Read Text; Hebrews 9 Read Text

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf .”

Jeremiah 31-32
“At that time” (31:1) echoes Isaiah’s “On that day”—the time of the ultimate reconciliation of God and God’s people. This long description of that time is full of reassurance, love, predictions of rebuilding, gladness, and return home.

A brief switch to a minor key (31:15) is quoted in Matthew 2:18. Later, the passage quoted in yesterday’s Hebrews reading (31:31-34).

Chapter 32 turns to a new word to Jeremiah from the LORD, this time during Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem. Involving Jeremiah’s purchase of a plot of land, it leads to a recap of the reasons the siege is underway, but reassurance of eventual return, safety and peace.

Hebrews 9
Moses’s tabernacle was full of symbolism and meaning—so reading “Of these things we cannot speak now in detail” (v. 5) I’m inclined to say, no please, go ahead: explain everything! But what is clear here is that all the regulations and worship of the “first covenant” were a foreshadowing, and that “when Christ came as a high priest . . . he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of boats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (v. 11-12).

Thus what Christ has done is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s original covenant with Israel!

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WEEK 47, DAY 3

Jeremiah 29-30 Read Text; Hebrews 8 Read Text

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Jeremiah 29-30
Jeremiah writes from Jerusalem to the exiles already in Babylon, telling them to settle in and bloom where they’re planted. The prophets there are lying about imminent return home: it will be seventy years before God “will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (29:10). But when the time is fulfilled, things will improve considerably.

Shemaiah attempts to cast Jeremiah as the crazy, false prophet, but is rebuked.

God instructs Jeremiah to write down “all the words that I have spoken to you” (30:2). The resulting words are a poetic proclamation of restoration, including a wonderful hint of Jesus at 30:21-22.

Hebrews 8
Readings not quite as in synch today as they have occasionally been, but close: tomorrow’s reading in Jeremiah includes the portion quoted here, in Hebrews 8:8-12 (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The writer points out that this prophecy from Jeremiah refers to a new covenant, foreshadowing the filling of the Holy Spirit that believers have experienced following Jesus’ resurrection. The new covenant makes the first one obsolete, and “what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear” (v. 13).

Note the fascinating assertion at v. 5—consistent throughout scripture—that the earthly sanctuary “is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one.” More on this tomorrow.

WEEK 47, DAY 2

Jeremiah 27-28 Read Text; Hebrews 7 Read Text

“Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jeremiah 27-28
More props to help Jeremiah make his point: this time a yoke. His message, though from God, needs all the help it can get: who wants to hear that God is giving the king of Babylon everyone’s kingdoms (for a time)? Nor does anyone want to be told that the prophets with reassuring messages are “prophesying a lie to you” (27:10).

A confrontation between lying prophet Hananiah and Jeremiah illustrates this conflict; Hananiah, though, is dead two months later. With 20/20 hindsight we know Jeremiah was right and the other prophets were lying, but what must it have been like for him (and those listening) then?

Hebrews 7
Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) and Jesus: one and the same? Archetype and specific case? Either way, parallels between the two explicate Jesus’ unique role. Teasing out Melchizedek’s identity, nature, and relationship with Abraham illustrates who Jesus is—“a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life” (v. 16). Also what Jesus has accomplished: “accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant” (v. 22).

V. 26-28 brings it all home. The chapter is a masterful interweaving of the concept of priesthood, the story of an ancient encounter, and Jesus changing everything once and for all.

WEEK 47, DAY 1

Jeremiah 25-26 Read Text; Hebrews 6 Read Text

“For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Jeremiah 25-26
Jeremiah is 23 years into his vocation as prophet, and no one has been listening. The consequence of ignoring God’s repeated pleadings to pay attention and turn from evil is conquest by “King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant” (25:9). This will last 70 years, and then Babylon will get its own comeuppance.

Through Jeremiah God rants: “Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more” (25:27).

Another assignment for Jeremiah (26:2): a last ditch effort by God to avoid disaster, which is met with typical outrage by Establishment types. Calls for his death are repudiated by Jeremiah; the prophet Uriah doesn’t fare so well.

Hebrews 6
Something like Come on, people, get with the program is followed by an enigmatic assertion about falling away, thorns and thistles.

But not for the recipients of this missive to worry about—because, importantly, “God is not unjust” (v. 10). Diligence is appropriate, however, given the promises available: we are “strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us” (v. 18).

This hope is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (v. 19-20).

WEEK 46, DAY 6

Jeremiah 23-24 Read Text; Hebrews 5 Read Text

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Jeremiah 23-24
Images of shepherds and sheep offer both a warning and reassurance: “Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock. . . .” (23:3), “. . . and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.” (23:4). A beautiful messianic prophesy follows (23:5-8).

Meantime, wickedness prevails. We find the origin of “the wormwood and the gall” (23:15) amid strong words about being deluded by false prophets, and against those “who lead my people astray by their lies and recklessness” (23:32).

An exercise with figs (24:1-10) offers additional reassurance that not all the exiles from Judah are doomed.

Hebrews 5
You might want to review Genesis 14, where Melchizedek appears, and Psalm 110, where he is invoked; Melchizedek is linked to Jesus here and in the next two chapters, as Jesus’ role as ultimate high priest is explained.

Being subject to weakness allows us mortals to deal gently with others (v. 2)!

Jesus’ mission continues to be linked to Hebrew scripture—here Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. His submission and sufferings on earth have made him “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (v. 9).

However, the profound implications of all this are difficult to grasp without maturity in Christ (v. 11-14).

WEEK 46, DAY 5

Jeremiah 21-22 Read Text; Hebrews 4 Read Text

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Jeremiah 21-22
Zedekiah’s deluded complacency invites a bracing dose of reality from Jeremiah. Jeremiah repeats what God wants (21:12-13; 22:3): justice, deliverance from oppression—rather than arrogant defiance—no wrong or violence; no innocent blood shed.

God treasures Judah (22:6), but destruction is inevitable. Why? “Because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshiped other gods and served them” (22:9). Things went well when the former king was just and “judged the cause of the poor and needy” (22:16). But now “your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence” (22:17).

Hebrews 4
The promise of “rest” in God’s Psalm 95 commentary on the incident at Meribah is “still open,” (v. 1, 6) and believing is the way in—now as then. It is the rest of the sabbath (v. 9), it is worth “every effort” (v. 11), and today is the time (v. 7).

Using what God has said and done, as recounted in Hebrew scripture, to illustrate and validate Christian belief occurs throughout Hebrews, and here (v. 12-13) we learn why.

Jesus can sympathize with us, having been tested just as we are. We can therefore “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (v. 16).

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