"God's Love in the Old Testament" - Chapter 27



Chapter 27: "And More - The Violence of Prophecy? (2)"




Chapter 27– And More - the Violence of Prophecy? (2)

(God's activity in history)


"In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them." But the people did not listen."   (2 Kings 21:7-9)



Contents of Chapter 27

27.1 Introduction

27.2 The Context and Complaints of Jeremiah

27.3 The Warnings of the Lord

27.4 Summary and What Happened

27.5 Conclusions

Appendix 1 - Sins of the Norhern Kingdom

Appendix 2 - Sins of Manasseh in the Southern Kingdom


27.1 Introduction


In the previous chapter we faced the question, “How can you talk about a God of love when you see His violent assertions in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, His announcements of violent judgment on people?” and observed the early chapters of the book of Isaiah to see the prophetic call that revealed:

    • Israel 's poor spiritual and moral state,
    • An alternative lifestyle (God's design) offered,
    • A reasoned reconciliation offered,
    • Warnings given if that is refused,
    • A picture given of God's ultimate intent for Jerusalem as to be a place where believers from all over the world congregate,
    • Hope given in that day for those who will remain righteous (a remnant).


We saw all this in the context of considering God's plan throughout the Old Testament which was to raise up a unique people who would reveal Him to the world , and then to call them back to Himself again when they drifted from Him . We said that eventually the northern kingdom, just referred to as Israel , was eventually swept away by the Assyrians, never to be reinstated, as God acted as judge, jury and executioner to bring a judgment on that northern kingdom.


Perhaps because we focused more on His activity with Judah, dealing with Ahaz and Hezekiah, we should just make a note that from the very inception of the northern kingdom it had been based on idolatry (see 1 King 12:26-33) and false worship and remained like this throughout its existence. Every single king of the northern kingdom, without exception, was a bad king and never turned Israel back to right worship. It was no wonder, therefore that the Lord removed them in 722BC with the destruction of Samaria , the capital of the northern kingdom.


In this chapter we propose to start examining the truth behind the assumptions of our starting question but this time using the book of Jeremiah, the second of the ‘major' prophetical books. What is staggeringly clear about the Jeremiah prophecies is the means that God will use to purge Judah of sin – a nation from the north.


WARNING: These chapters are for those who genuinely want to find out what the Bible actually says. To that end we have, therefore, used many quotes - and we could have used considerably more! Therefore please bear with us and take in the power of what comes through in the many Scriptures below.


Bear in mind all we had said in earlier chapters about God not MAKING people act as they will, but instead merely stepping back and allowing their wrong feelings towards Judah to rise up and motivate them to move against Judah . This may be God's intent but He used human wrong attitudes to bring it about.


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27.2 The Context and Complaints of Jeremiah


a) Context


Jeremiah prophesied from the thirteenth year of King Josiah, 627BC, through to the destruction of Jerusalem and the final groups being carried into exile in 587BC. He is the main prophet, therefore, who spoke to Judah and its kings before they were eventually carried into exile. “Would a God of love, have put the people through such as terrible experience?” the questioner might now ask. To answer this we need to note the various elements of Jeremiah's prophecies.


b) Complaints


Remember, God's purpose in creating Israel and constantly drawing them back to Himself was to reveal Himself to them, and reveal His design for them and for mankind, to show an alternative good lifestyle that was not based on superstitious, occultic fear – as so many other nations had – but on His love and goodness. They were thus to be a light to the rest of the world, revealing Him to His world – see chapter 9 of this book.


By Jeremiah's time the northern kingdom, as we noted above, was gone. Indeed through Jeremiah, the Lord reminded the present people of this and why it had happened:


Jer 3:6-8 During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.


This was just a reminder of what had happened and should now be seen in the light of His complaints against Judah . In the early chapters the following complaints against Judah are observed:


i) Forsaking God and turning to idols


Jer 1:16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made .


ii) Forsaking God and relying on their own wisdom


Jer 2:13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns , broken cisterns that cannot hold water.


iii) Forsaking God and relying on other nations


Jer 2:18 Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Shihor? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the River (& 2:36 )


iv) Forsaking God and not learning from what happened to Israel


Jer 3:9,10 Because Israel 's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this , her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense," declares the LORD.


An aside: As with all prophecy there is some hope for the future :


Jer 3:16,17 In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, `The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.


i.e. the end plan is that Jerusalem :

•  will be the place where God is known to dwell and to rule, and so •  people from all over the world will seek Him there, •  returning to ‘the design' and forsaking their godless and unrighteous lives. •  see also 15:19 for present repentance bringing hope •  see also 16:15 a first promise of restoration after exile


v) Forsaking the Lord so no one is righteous any more


Jer 5:1 Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem , look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.


When we come to chapter 7. we will see in detail their specific wrongs and it would be a foolish person who tried to defend those things.


vi) They perverted the Truth


Jer 5:12 They have lied about the LORD; they said, "He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.


vii) Reliance on the existence of the Temple


Jer 7:4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!"


i.e. the Temple was THE central focal point for the presence of the Lord, and so while it stood (and they could never imagine God allowing it to be destroyed) they considered they were safe. The Temple thus acted as a talisman in their beliefs.


viii) Refusal to Listen to the Lord's servants


Jer 7:25,26 From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.'

(also 11:7,8)


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27.3 The Warnings from the Lord


Focusing our observations


What has always amazed me about Jeremiah and Judah and Jerusalem and the Exile, was the number of times that clear words of warning came . He has made clear His complaints; let's now see some of the warnings that raise questions about a ‘loving God', warnings of judgment that brings destruction. Focus more on the number of warnings and remember God's intention was NOT that they be destroyed but that they be reconciled to Him and restored to the glory they had known during the reigns of say David and Solomon. So, let's consider these warnings:


The Warnings of a Coming Judgment


Jer 1:14,15 The LORD said to me, "From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms," declares the LORD.


Jer 4:6,7 Raise the signal to go to Zion ! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction." A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant.


Jer 4:16,17 Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem : `A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah . They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,' " declares the LORD .


Jer 4:27 This is what the LORD says: "The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely.


Jer 5:15,17 O house of Israel ," declares the LORD, "I am bringing a distant nation against you-- an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.


Jer 6:1,2 "Flee for safety, people of Benjamin! Flee from Jerusalem ! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa! Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem! For disaster looms out of the north, even terrible destruction. I will destroy the Daughter of Zion , so beautiful and delicate.


So we don't lose ourselves with too many quotes at a time, let's summarise what these early quotes so far have said:

•  God is going to bring judgment in the form of armies from the north

•  They will come and completely devastate the land, although not completely

•  Even Jerusalem will be destroyed.


It is very simple and obvious. Six times in these first six chapters, so far, the warning has been there – but the judgment hasn't yet come and it's not yet too late:


Jer 6:8 Take warning, O Jerusalem , or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it."


Even more, what the Lord wants is made clear:


Jer 6:16 This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.


The ancient paths? They are God's original design that we referred to so many times in the previous chapters


He brings judgment and purpose together yet again. It comes as an appeal for the whole world to see and understand:


Jer 6:19 Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law.


They have refused the design and therefore they will fail to be that light to the rest of the world that we referred to, failing to reveal God as He really is. And so the warnings continue:


Jer 6:22,23 This is what the LORD says: "Look, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is being stirred up from the ends of the earth…. they come like men in battle formation to attack you, O Daughter of Zion ."


A Focus on the Wrongs of the Nation


When we reach chapter 7 of Jeremiah , we find the Lord requires him to stand at the entrance of the Temple and speak out a prophecy. It comes with

•  hope (this destruction can be avoided))

•  purpose (what is needed is made clear)

•  warning (this is implied but clear)


Jer 7:3-9 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel , says:

•  Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. (A conditional promise) •  Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" (A wrong reliance) •  If you really change your ways and your actions and (1) deal with each other justly, if you (2) do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and (3) do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you (4) do not follow other gods to your own harm , then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. Will you (5) steal and (6) murder , (7) commit adultery and (8) perjury , (9) burn incense to Baal and (10) follow other gods you have not known , (a list of specific wrongs)


Please remember the point we are making again and again: God, in His concern for His people, is warning them again and again and again of what will happen if they continue to live as a pagan nation. Their wrongs - to be given up – are made abundantly clear. I have numbered them! Ten things that are obviously very wrong, ten things most honest, rational people would agree are wrong.


This is what was going on in this nation that had been expressly brought into being to reveal the goodness of the design of God for mankind, so that the world might understand more of His nature. How far from this they had gone.


If we had a child that had strayed completely away from the standards we had taught it, and after constant pleadings it still refused to heed us, we would probably have given up on it by now – but God didn't! There are lots more warning yet to come!


These ‘clarified warnings' occur again and again, for example:


Jer 16:10-13 "When you tell these people all this and they ask you, `Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?' then say to them (here is the clear reason from the distant past first) , `It is because your fathers forsook me,' declares the LORD, `and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. (and here is the clear reason from the present, second) But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. (so this is what will happen as a consequence) So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.'


Anyone who really understands what we are seeing here, can never question God's love! His concern and ongoing expressions of it, testify to that love again and again. Failure to be concerned for them would be an indication of absence of love! But again and again He tries to draw them back from the way they are living


The Warnings Continue


Jer 7:20 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn and not be quenched.


Jer 7:34 I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem , for the land will become desolate


Jer 8:16 The snorting of the enemy's horses is heard from Dan; at the neighing of their stallions the whole land trembles. They have come to devour the land and everything in it, the city and all who live there."


Jer 9:11 "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there."


Jer 9:16 I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have destroyed them."


Jer 9:22, 10:18, 11:11,16,17,22, 12:7, 10-12, 13:9, 15:1-4,8,9, 16:4,6,13, 17:4, 18:11 etc.


But note, even in the midst of this come words of comfort :


Jer 17:7,8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."


Jer 17:12 A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary


Jer 18:7,8 I f at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.


The Clarity of the Warnings


There are never any grounds In Jeremiah for saying, “But we didn't know!” This isn't God just threatening; this is the Lord showing very clearly the grounds for His displeasure and making it very clear how they can avoid the impending judgment. 


Jer 19:3-5 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel , says: Listen! (What is coming) I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. (Why it is coming) (1) For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; (2) they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and (3) they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. (4) They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal--something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.


Note the reasons above: 2 is an extension or explanation of 1, 4 is an extension or explanation of 3.


Now we could carry on through Jeremiah and see more and more and more of these warnings, but perhaps we have stretched the grace of most people already with so many references. We just wanted to make the point. To conclude this chapter may we simply summarise the main points we had made so far, and then see just what happened in history.


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27.4   A Summary & What Happened to Judah




  1. God's plan was to bless and guide and protect Israel and through that to reveal Himself to the rest of the world.
  2. He had given them His law to enable them to live in peace and harmony, yet for that to be effective it had to be as an expression of their love for Him – and He had given them plenty of reasons to love Him.
  3. Through the course of their history they had been given plenty of opportunities to learn that when they went with Him, life was good, but when they turned away from Him and went their own way, they became weak and vulnerable to enemy attack and were dominated by enemy oppressors.
  4. Even when they turned from Him, He sent prophets to call them back, but mostly they rejected them.
  5. After several centuries having worshipped idols and refusing to turn back to God , Israel , the northern kingdom, were destroyed by invaders from the north in 722BC.
  6. Judah , the southern kingdom had seen all these and often lived in relationship with God and were blessed, but nevertheless they still often strayed from God into idol worship.
  7. In 687 Manasseh became king of Judah and you can read of the awfulness of his reign (which lasted for 55 years) in 2 Kings 21.
  8. He was followed by his son, Amon , (2 Kings 21:19) and was virtually as bad as his father but he only reigned two years before he was assassinated.
  9. He was followed by Josiah who was mostly a good king (2 Kings 22-24) and because of that Judah were spared during his reign.
  10. His son, Jehoahaz , followed him for a few months, was a bad king, before he was taken prisoner to Egypt by the king of Egypt and there he died. The king of Egypt put his brother, renamed Jehoiakim , in charge of Judah where he reigned for eleven years, another bad king.
  11. During his reign Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon invaded for the first time and took Daniel and other leaders to Babylon . Jehoiakim eventually died and his son Jehoiachin took over, was a bad king and after three months Nebuchadnezzar returned in 597 and took Jerusalem and carried off many of the Jews including Jehoiachin and the prophet Ezekiel, and left Zedekiah in charge until he rebelled and in 587BC Nebuchadnezzar returned and utterly destroyed Jerusalem and took it's inhabitants into exile in Babylon.
  12. Jeremiah prophesied through the reigns of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah (see Jer 3:6), and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah (see Jer 25:1, 26:1, 35:1, 36:1,), down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah (see Jer 27:1, 37:1,2), when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.” (Jer 1:2,3)


The Awfulness of Manasseh


If you read 2 Kings 21 (see also Appendix 2 below), you will see the extent of the established idol worship by Manasseh. Now what is amazing, is that the Lord allowed him to reign for 55 years. During that time God sent prophets with a very strong word of judgment, a word of complete destruction of Jerusalem .


2 Kings 21:10-15 The LORD said through his servants the prophets: "Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel , says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day."


God's Forbearance


Now the fact that that judgment did not come for at least another 50 years, is surely a sign of the Lord giving opportunity after opportunity for the nation (and its king) to repent, especially under Josiah, yet it is clear that the tendency towards idol worship was so ingrained in Judah, that even that reign did not re-establish them and the subsequent kings were not faithful to God.


What we should also remember is that the Exile did NOT mean the death of most of the nation and did not mean the end of the nation. The first of the exiles to return came within about forty years of the destruction of Jerusalem and as promised by God. His intention, in the long-term, was clearly to rid the nation of its idolatry and unrighteousness and to restore it to be the people of God. Yes, as other prophets showed, even after the exile they lapsed into complacency and half-heartedness when it came to their relationship with the Lord and Malachi's famous word from God, “I hate divorce” was in fact in respect of that relationship and His determination not to reject this nation. Yes, there was over four hundred years of silence, but Israel were still in existence when, albeit under the domination of Rome , the nation would provide the background of the Son of God coming from heaven.


Why was there that gap between God's last words to Israel through His prophets and the coming of His Son? No answer is given in Scripture but evangelist and writer Michael Green gives a number of reasons why the world circumstances made that time just right, and goes as far as to say, “The spread of Christianity would have been inconceivable had Jesus been born half a century earlier.” (Michael Green – Evangelism in the Early Church).


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27.5 Conclusions


The illustration of the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah shows the Lord again and again and again

  • calling Judah to face their apostasy and turn away from it
  • warning them of the consequences if they did not.


The clarity of those calls and consequences left the nation with no excuse. The numbers of times that those calls came, and the long period of time that judgment was deferred speaks of the Lord's patience and forbearance, giving the nation opportunity after opportunity to repent and turn back to Him and to His design for them, for His blessing to flow in their lives – but they didn't.


This study reveals the absolute foolishness of mankind, but the grace and love and forbearance of God. NEVER say that was capricious or tetchy or any of the other foolish things that the crusading atheists say about God. He is the picture of one seeking to bring goodness and blessing to mankind, in the face of their obstinate folly!

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Appendix 1 to this chapter: The sins of the Northern Kingdom seen in 2 Kings 17:7-17


Because these verses are full of condemnation of Israel and explain the reasons for the ending of the northern kingdom, the following table may highlight their failures:




Worshipped other gods



Followed practices of Canaanites



Followed the wrong practice introduced by Jeroboam



Secretly built high places of false worship



Set up sacred stones & Asherah poles to worship



Burned incense to idols



Worshipped idols



Disregarded God's Laws



Did not trust in God



Rejected God's covenant



Rejected God's warnings



Followed worthless idols



Imitated pagan nations doing forbidden things



Made two golden calves and worshipped them



Made and worshipped an Asherah pole



Worshipped the stars



Worshipped Baal



Sacrificed their sons and daughters



Practiced divination



Practiced sorcery


So established was this pagan idolatry that there was no hope that they would ever become again God's light to the nations, and hence their demise in 722BC.


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Appendix 2 to this chapter: The sins of Manasseh in the Southern Kingdom seen in 2 Kings 21




Re-established the pagan ‘high places'



Erected altars to Baal



Made an Asherah pole



Built altars in the Temple to worship gods of the sky



He sacrificed his own son in the fire,



He practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists.



Put the Asherah pole in the Temple



Shed much innocent blood


Again, so established was this pagan, occultic idolatry that only the severest of measures could rid it from the remaining southern kingdom to enable them to be God's light to the world, and hence the destruction of Jerusalem in 587BC and the accompanying exile of the people of Judah.


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