The Don: The Terror of Absolute Goodness

“[W]e know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do. This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.” —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), p. 31

Nerf Darts Versus ICBMs (Jeremiah 50)

“The LORD has opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord God of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chaldeans.” —Jeremiah 50:25

Can there be any more terrifying thought than Yahweh opening up His armory against you? The apex of man’s military might is the nuclear missile. Sure, man can hurl a missile at 15,000 miles per hour causing 475 kilotons of damage (Hiroshima had 12 kiloton yield). That all sounds impressive, until you consider that God is hurling billions of balls of nuclear fusion at speeds of over 500,000 miles per hour,  each by itself producing every second as much energy as trillions of our missiles.

But sinner, know that He is not only has an armory to dispose of His enemies, He is also a refuge for those who trust in Christ crucified. If you are in Christ, God’s judgment is your salvation. Judgment fell on the Son to save you from your sins and it will fall on the wicked to save his people from sinners.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon” (Jeremiah 50:33–34).

The Don: Disagreeing about the Degree of our Disagreements

“One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before one asks whether such-and-such a point ‘really matters’ and the other replies: ‘Matter? Why, it’s absolutely essential.'” ——C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), p. x

Big Promises Stuffed into Little Boxes (Jeremiah 49)

Concerning the Ammonites. 
Thus says the LORD:
 
“Has Israel no sons? 
     Has he no heir? 
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad, 
     and his people settled in its cities? 
Therefore, behold, the days are coming, 
     declares the LORD, 
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard 
     against Rabbah of the Ammonites; 
it shall become a desolate mound, 
     and its villages shall be burned with fire; 
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him, 
     says the LORD.

—Jeremiah 49:1–2

When unpacking the oracles against the nations (Jeremiah 46–51) it is critical to realize that they come vacuum sealed. Though judgment has been delivered to these nations, it hasn’t been fully unpacked. Jesus adds water to all the Old Testament and in Him, it swells substantially. He fulfills them. In Him, they reach their full. In Him, that fullness is filled to the brim. On the day of His return and forever thereafter I’m certain we will be in awe of how much God packed into so small a space. The oracles against the nations are compressed files. Jesus unzips them. In Jesus we will find that each these bytes communicate terabytes of information.

These oracles do come with fences but the fences are temporary. They are not simply meant to contain a judgment, but communicate the judgment. Note how dissolvable these fences are in Jeremiah 25:15–32, which in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) serve as the conclusion to the oracles against the nations.

“Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.’ So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people, and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink. ‘Then you shall say to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.” And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: You must drink! For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.’ You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: “The LORD will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the LORD.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, disaster is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth !” (emphases mine).

While the fences are up, this “all the earth” language is an understandable use of hyperbole, not to exaggerate but to communicate. Still, can’t you also see that these fences will one day come down such that the hyperbole will then be an understatement? When Jesus baptizes the world in the fire of judgment these fences will dissolve. Even so, we look to the past fences to get some idea of the shape of the future. By this, the future doesn’t become hazy, but clear.

For instance, Ammon is indicted for possessing the land Yahweh allotted to Israel. Despite appearances, His people are not without an heir. Though the northern tribes, including Gad, were largely assimilated and absorbed but he alien cultures to which they were driven by Assyria long before this prophecy, this land is not up for grabs. This same indictment is brought against all these nations (cf. Jeremiah 10:25; 12:10–14). So in the judgment of the nations a promise of salvation is being made to God’s people. They will dispossess those who dispossessed them. But who are these heirs? I’m simply going to leave you with some New Testament unpacking and I think you can begin to see all that was tied up in these Old Testament prophecies.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16–17).

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:34–35).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

See? Big promises. Little boxes.

The Don: Improbable? Nay.

“The fitness or credibility of the Grand Miracle [the incarnation] itself cannot, obviously, be judged by the same standard. And let us admit at once that it is very difficult to find a standard by which it can be judged. If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about. Since it happened only once, it is by Hume’s standards infinitely improbable. But then the whole history of the Earth has also happened only once; is it therefore incredible? Hence the difficulty, which weighs upon Christian and atheist alike, of estimating the probability of the Incarnation. It is like asking whether the existence of Nature herself is intrinsically probable. That is why it is easier to argue, on historical grounds, that the Incarnation actually occurred than to show, on philosophical grounds, the probability of its occurrence. The historical difficulty of giving for the life, sayings and influence of Jesus any explanation that is not harder than the Christian explanation, is very great.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 174

Gathered Dust No Sign of Being Well Aged (Jeremiah 47–48)

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
     and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
     nor has he gone into exile;
     so his taste remains in him,
     and his scent is not changed.

Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.” —Jeremiah 48:11–13

Though man is dust, sometimes he gets to thinking the dust covers a rare and expensive vintage under it all. But just because the wine has aged doesn’t mean it’s aged well. It may have settled on the lees so long that it’s turned bad.

Moab was a dusty bottle of wine forgotten in the cellar. She has long enjoyed peace, but she hasn’t aged well. She’s settled on the dregs of her boasting and become ripe, not for consumption, but destruction. She’s never been mixed up; she’s never been poured from one vessel to another, going into exile as Israel did and she’s the worse for it. Whereas Israel was smack dab in the middle of a major trade route, Moab was just off the beaten path, a plateau to the east to the dead sea. But God is sending pourers. She will be poured, her vessels emptied, and smashed.

As a result she will be ashamed of Chemosh as Israel was ashamed of Bethel. When the kingdom of Israel was split under the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Jeroboam, who then became king of Israel, erected a golden calf and an altar in Bethel for fear that his people would return to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh and thus defect to Judah (1 Kings 12:25–33). He also built a calf in Dan and dedicated both saying, “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” (2 Kings 12:28). Although these gods did serve to prevent the mass of Israel from going to Judah, more so they were the cause of their being obliterated by the Assyrians. These gods delivered Israel neither from Egypt nor from Assyria. In the same way, Chemosh will prove impotent against the human hands that the sovereign Lord sends against Moab.

The dust will be blown off. There will be shouting, but it won’t be because the wine is so good. They will be poured out only to drink to the full of the wine of God’s wrath.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision…

Gladness and joy have been taken away
     from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
     no one treads them with shouts of joy;
     the shouting is not the shout of joy.
 —Jeremiah 48:26, 33

Know that present insulation doesn’t mean immunization. In the west we have long lived off the last fumes of the Protestant Reformation. The accrued blessings we have enjoyed because of past faithfulness should not be misread by any as sign of God’s favor with us or as a guarantee of future blessing. Present insulation from judgment is no indication of future immunization.

If you don’t enjoy God’s goodness in Christ, unto His glory, you will enjoy His goodness only for a time and His wrath forevermore. Judgment is certain and the only sure refuge is the split rock of Christ crucified for sinners and risen for their life. Anything else that you now boast in will one day be your shame. 

The Don: The Archetype

“Even our sexuality should be regarded as the transposition into a minor key of that creative joy which in Him is unceasing and irresistible. Grammatically the things we say of Him are ‘metaphorical’: but in a deeper sense it is our physical and psychic energies that are mere ‘metaphors’ of the real Life which is God. Divine Sonship is, so to speak, the solid of which biological sonship is merely a diagrammatic representation on the flat.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 146

Swollen Rivers Subside (Jeremiah 46:1–28)

"About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah...

Who is this, rising like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge? 
Egypt rises like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge. 
He said, 'I will rise, I will cover the earth, 
     I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.'"

—Jeremiah 46:2, 7–8

With Assyria on the wane, Babylon waxes strong while Egypt enjoys something of a resurgence. Pridefully, Egypt swells like her Nile, ambitious to flood the lands around her. Assyria had acted as a buffer between Egypt and Babylon; so it is no surprise that Egypt heads north to aid Assyria. It was en route to do so that Pharaoh Neco was intercepted by King Josiah. Eventually Neco sets up his base at Carchemish. The two rising world powers of the age are set to clash. The Battle of Carchemish would prove a critical turning point in history.

The Nile’s resurgence proves to be due to nothing other than a flash flood. The waters will subside as quickly as they rose. All human glory, even that of nations, of superpowers, all of it fades. Their flow of glory can never surpass the ebb caused by God’s judgment. The nations can never rise so far as to mitigate their fall. It is futile for them to spread miles in hopes of keeping even a few inches. There can be no advance of human glory.

Humanity should remain humble before the Holy one, and this includes collected humanity as well. The Tower of Babel was not preserved despite man’s unified strength. The greatest judgements fall where pride is concentrated. Man’s collected power doesn’t dampen the blow; it intensifies it. So hear the Lord’s admonition in Jeremiah 9:23–26 afresh:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart’” (emphasis mine).

Hear this admonition and resolve as Paul did to boast in nothing but “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to [you], and [you] to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:14–15). And having been crucified to the world, rejoice, even when you see superpowers fall. Even when it seems as though the world is being flipped upside down, rejoice knowing that it is being prepared to be flipped right-side up in Jesus. Remember, you are a citizen of heaven. When all the nations of this earth are manifestly put under Jesus feet, then heaven will come down, all things will be made new, and the citizens of the kingdom will humbly serve their Lord with joy forevermore.

The Don: The Hole in Empirical Evidence

“[T]he question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles

God Always Has the Everlasting Word (Jeremiah 44–45)

“This shall be the sign to you, declares the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm…” —Jeremiah 44:29

With the forty-fourth chapter of Jeremiah, you come to the prophet’s last recorded words to the Judeans. Chapters 46–51, known as the “oracles against the nations,” are from an earlier date, actually the same date as chapter 45, the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In Jeremiah 25:13, Yahweh says, “I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations” (emphasis mine). Chapters 46–51are this book as the opening verses (46:1–2) make clear. Beyond these, we only have chapter 52, which is a kind of a postscript. As far as recorded revelation is concerned, this is Jeremiah’s last sermon.

Jeremiah’s long and faithful ministry is drawing to a close. He’s now preaching in a new location, but it seems as though he’s dusting off all his old sermons, marking out “Jerusalem” and inserting “Egypt.” Deal is, he’s still preaching to the same church. Jeremiah isn’t finishing lazy, recycling old material. The people of God are repeating the same old sins.

Jeremiah ends where he began, rebuking their idolatry and warning of judgment. Further, Jeremiah’s ministry ends where it all began. The people of God, redeemed out of Egypt, are now rejected in Egypt. This time, instead of leaving Egypt blessed, they return cursed. In Egypt, the people began, being delivered by judgment. Now, back in Egypt, they will end, being destroyed by judgment. They have returned back to the beginning for the end.

The remnant refuses to heed this word, saying they will keep their vows to the queen of heaven. God then vows that they will no longer make vows in His name, for they are and will be cut off. What this last word boils down to is a contest of who will have the last word. The Judeans resolve to keep their vows to the queen of heaven. Yahweh resolves to judge their idolatry. Whose word will stand? Jeremiah’s last words were everlasting words, for they were the words of the everlasting God. God doesn’t simply have the last Word, His is always the everlasting Word. His word, both of judgment and grace, will forever stand.