Week 34 Devotion
This week we have two new books to read and we will finish the book of Jeremiah, but each of these books centers around the final years of Israel’s southern Kingdom of Judah. We’ve been reading over the last few weeks about the downfall of Judah as a nation and their exile in Babylon and these three books are going to help us understand what that was like for the people. These books will also help us to see how the prophets cried out to God about what was going on.
The prophet Habakkuk wrote his book before the exile took place but it is clear as you read that he saw it coming. He cries out to God and wants to know why God hasn’t intervened. He wants to know why God is allowing the wicked nation of Babylon to set their sights on Jerusalem. He wants to know why God hasn’t stepped up to stop this pagan nation from their plans to destroy and enslave God’s people. These are all good questions and God has an answer for them.
The prophet Jeremiah is the major prophet speaking on God’s behalf during this steep decline in Judah. He has called out the leaders for their sin, he has pointed out the sins of the people and as we wrap up his book this week we are going to see the destruction of Jerusalem finally come to pass. We will also see that when the judgment of God falls upon a nation even the godly get swept away.
Finally, we are going to read the book of Lamentations which is a collection of lament poetry where the author is looking back and reflecting on the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. This book was written after all the events of Jerusalem’s destruction had taken place and the people had been carried away. But it’s not all doom and gloom, there is a strong note of hope in God that flows out of the author’s understanding of Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness.
Something to meditate on…
In Habakkuk, we read that the prophet is puzzled about something. He has a question for God and the question goes something like this, “Oh God, how long will I cry out for help and you will not hear?” The prophet sees that the city of Jerusalem is filled with injustice and idolatry and he is concerned about the destruction and violence that is sure to come. So he’s crying out to God asking Him to intervene.
He doesn’t accuse God of being unjust in fact he is counting on God’s justness to motivate Him to bring change in the city and protect the people from the threat that surrounds them. But the problem is that God has a completely different plan for how to deal with the situation.
God responds to Habakkuk’s question to let him know that He is fully aware of what is going on the in the city and the fact that Babylon is on the horizon. In fact, this is all part of God’s plan to execute justice in Jerusalem. But this raises a whole different problem for Habakkuk and it’s the fact that God is going to use the wicked nation of Babylon to judge Judah.
Here is Habakkuk’s argument,
Hab 1:13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?
In other words, how is it just for God to allow the wicked nation of Babylon to swallow up and destroy the nation of Judah that is wicked in its own right, but not as wicked as Babylon. This book is about the injustice of man and the justice of God and Habakkuk is wrestling with how to understand all that is taking place and how to live in the midst of his confusion.
The Lord helps him with this in chapter 2:4 when He tells the prophet that, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” The point of this famous line that gets repeated at least 3 times in the NT is that the true people of God are not those who have all the answers to the hard questions of life in this world, but they are the ones who face the hardships of life with a foundational faith in God.
Our posture as God’s people is not to understand the wheels and cogs of God’s providence, but to trust in God and be faithful to God no matter what comes our way. This is a very timely message for us today and will be all the more important if our nation continues to spiral into moral chaos, cultural division, and corrupt leadership. We may very well live to see Habakkuk 3 become a reality in our country. If so, we need to remember Habakkuk’s closing words, “Even if the land is desolate and there is no food…yet I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Hab 3:17-19).”
Something to discuss…
As we finish reading the book of Jeremiah we are going to see the final days of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah continues to prophesy that judgment is coming but the leaders simply will not listen to what God has to say. They try to run away from the destruction by hiding in Egypt but then God says, “Oh, I have something in store for Egypt as well and when I get there I will deal with you as well.”
Then in chapters 46-51, God declares His judgment on the nations of the world. God is going to use Babylon to judge all the nations around Jerusalem and then once He is done with them His judgment will fall on Babylon as well. Like the tower of Babel in Gen 11, this wicked nation that God used as an instrument for divine justice in the world will face God’s justice for their own sin.
The book ends in chapter 52 with a description of what it was like in Jerusalem when the Babylonians came and this chapter is virtually the same as 2 Kings 25. God allowed king Nebuchadnezzar to build a siege around Jerusalem, overthrow the army of Judah and then carry the people into captivity as slaves. But that is not the end of the story.
At the end of chapter 52 there is a note of hope. Jehoiachin, the exiled king of Judah, is set free by the new king in Babylon. He is treated kindly and given a seat at the king's table. Every day this exiled king of Judah is allowed to eat at the table of the king and he was given this privilege as long as he lived.
So here’s the summary: God poured out judgment upon His people, upon the surrounding nations and will one day pour out His judgment upon the world. But for those to whom God made a covenant promise, like King David whose line continues to this day in Jesus Christ, there is the promise of hope that God will not abandon His people to their sin.
Take some time to discuss the fact that judgment will begin with the household of God. Consider what it will mean for the entire world to undergo the judgment of God and then take some time to discuss how the promise of God can give us great hope despite the end of the world.
Something to pray about…
The book of Lamentations tells us what life was like during the siege of Jerusalem and it paints a vividly painful picture of what God’s judgment was like. The city has fallen, everything is lost and the only thing the people have is lament for what has taken place.
The point or theme of this book is the people are drawing everyone’s attention to the horrific things that have taken place. They even want God to hear about it and in a way, these poems are a way to protest the what has happened. These poems also give the people an opportunity to process their emotion and the voice their confusion. They don’t understand everything that has happened but they don’t want to act like it was no big deal. They want to learn, they want to feel, they want to share and they want to know what God has to say.
In chapter 3, we read the poem of a man who has seen affliction. The man is lonely and he has suffered as a representative of the entire nation of Israel. His suffering was almost more than he could bear but when he was at his lowest point, something came into his mind and gave him hope.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
“If God is consistent enough to bring his justice on Israel’s evil, then he will also be consistent with his covenant promises and will not allow evil and sin to have the last word.”
God is faithful. He is faithful to punish sin and He is faithful to love His people. This means that even God’s judgment should produce hope in those who trust in Him. Let’s make that our prayer this week that as we read about God’s justice we praise Him that He remembers mercy. Let’s also pray that this book would stir our hearts for those who are set to suffer the wrath of God because they don’t know the forgiveness that comes only through Christ.
 The Bible Project notes on the book of Lamentations. www.thebibleproject.com