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Fourth Quarter 2015 October–December)
COMMENTARY ON JEREMIAH
Week 9: November 21–27
COMMENTARY ON JEREMIAH'S YOKE
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Sabbath Afternoon, Nov. 21: Introduction
The lesson for today begins with Luke 9:23:
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:21-27)
The memory verse in today's lesson compares the words of Jesus, who is teaching his disciples, with that of how God set apart Jeremiah for a special mission. This may be a good way to begin the lessons for this week but there are significant differences that should be kept in mind. The commentary for today will expand upon this comparison by focusing on the context of Jesus' words.
The immediate context of the lesson memory text follows upon Jesus' question;"Who do you say I am", Luke 9:18-20. Peter responded by saying; "The Christ of God". Then Jesus says to tell this to no one. If we explore the broader context of what was happening at that time we would realize that the Jews desired to be free of Roman rule with many wanting to achieve this by crowning Jesus as 'King of the Jews' believing Jesus would make this happen right right then in their lifetime.
Instead of allowing what the people wanted to occur at this time, Jesus explained that first "the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised". When Luke 9:22 is compared with 1 Cor. 15:1-5 we see that Jesus has just outlined to his disciples what Christians (New Covenant members of the 'Body of Christ') know as the 'gospel of Jesus Christ' for the remission of the sins of fallen mankind first promised by God in Genesis 3:15.
While there are valid parallels between God's instructions to Jeremiah with what Jesus said to his disciples, there are also important differences to keep in mind. Jeremiah's mission was to bring an apostate people to repentance and return to their God. Whereas the Messiah Jesus Christ' mission was far more significant. The people in Jesus time were looking for 'social salvation now' by crowning Jesus 'King of the Jews' whereas Jesus' caution was that he must first die a sinless death at Calvary for the remission of the sins of the whole world.
Sunday, Nov. 22: A Solitary Life
In today's reference passage, Jer. 16:1-13, Jeremiah is instructed by God not to marry and have a family. Nor is he permitted to lament with those who suffer nor is is he to 'go into the house of feasting'. The context of these instructions is that Jeremiah is to separated himself from those God had passed judgment upon.
The lesson then makes this statement:
'How should this account help us learn to appreciate the human support that we enjoy getting from others, or that we give to others? However important this support, how can we learn that, ultimately, our best support comes only from the Lord?'
Overall the lesson for today is good. The context for God's instructions to Jeremiah seems to be that God doesn't want Jeremiah to be personally involved in the terrible consequences that the people will soon suffer because of their refusal to repent of apostasy.
While it is without argument that the best support in our lives is centered on our love for the Lord we should couple this with what Jesus called the two greatest commandments which are the foundation for all the Old Covenant law:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:36-40)
Our love for 'our neighbor' is modeled after our love for God. Jesus reference to "...all the Law and the Prophets" makes it clear that what he said certainly applied to Jeremiah as well.
In-other-words Jeremiah, who obeyed and obviously loved God 'with all his heart, soul and mind', was to show his love for those around him in the midst of their apostasy by setting himself apart from their normal family times of sorrow and joy.
Monday, Nov. 23: Jeremiah's Yoke
The lesson defines Jeremiah's yoke this way:
"The yoke Jeremiah had to put on his body was an unmistakable sign of the humiliation that the nation suffered; it’s what we call a military occupation."
Then the student is asked to compare Jer. 27:5 with Dan. 4:25. In this commentary the surrounding verses have been included to help understand the context and meaning.
Yes they were humiliated yet what Jeremiah's yoke really symbolized was the results of Judah willfully chasing after other gods resulting in the bondage they had willfully placed upon themselves. This was symbolized by Jeremiah being the one who made the yoke and placed it upon himself. Yes, it was humiliating but Nebuchadnezzar's yoke was the natural consequence of what the people had done to themselves. At this time their only real choice was to accept the 'wooden yoke' instead of the 'iron yoke'.
In Jeremiah chapter 27 the Prophet Jeremiah makes a yoke at the command of God and then publicly places it upon himself as he addresses Judah along with the envoys of the surrounding kingdoms of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon. The symbolism is that if they willingly submit to Nebuchadnezzar it will be only temporary.
“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave...." (Jer. 27:5-7)
Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and asks Daniel to interpret it":
"...this is the interpretation, O king:It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you:break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity." (Dan. 4:24-27)
As we shall see as we progress through the rest of the lessons for this week Judah did not willingly submit to Nebuchadnezzar's yoke. Nor did they repent of their sins and submit to the will of God. Yet, in contrast, Nebuchadnezzar did eventually repent of his own sin and submit himself to God:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?" (Dan. 4:34-35)
Tuesday, Nov. 24: War of the Prophets
In the opening Ellen G. White quote we read this phrase:
“The amazement of the assembled council of nations knew no bounds when Jeremiah, carrying the yoke of subjection about his neck, made known to them the will of God.”
In Jer. 27:1 & 2 God instructs Jeremiah to make and wear a yoke. In verses 3-8 Jeremiah is instructed by God to also send the message of the yoke he is wearing to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon via the envoys who came to see Zedekiah king of Judah.
Wednesday & Thursday, Nov. 25 & 26: The Yoke of Iron & Trusting in Lies
While the title for today is "The Yoke of Iron" the real subject covered is their rejection of God's offer because they, in the hardness of their hearts, would rather listen to the lies of Hananiah.
Hananiah's false prophecies, which he symbolized by breaking Jeremiah's wooden yoke, encouraged the people to reject God's final offer of redemption. God ordained that they either willingly wear the 'wooden yoke' or they would be forced to wear the 'yoke of iron'. There was no other choice.
The example of what happened because of Hananiah's false prophecy provides us with an important warning. Therefore, in our own time, it is prudent for us to do what the Jews failed to do by examining the validity of the works of Ellen G. White to determine whether she was a true or false prophet of God.
Concerning the credentials of Ellen G. White:
Friday, Nov. 27: Further Thought
Today the quarterly lesson begins with this statement:
"As we have seen, people want to believe good news, not bad."
While people do seem to want to believe good news without acknowledging the reality of bad news this denial of their desperate condition wasn't their core the problem in Jeremiah's day and it certainly isn't our real problem now. Denial, at heart level, pointed to their problem. To make such a statement as the lesson does ignores the clear warning given in Scripture about why God, through the words he put into the mouth of Jeremiah, was bringing this disaster upon the people of Judea and Jerusalem. They were on a path of self-destruction and could not rescue themselves because of their denial.
Instead of repenting of their sins and falling upon the mercy of their God they would rather 'work out their own salvation'. Instead of submission to God, those that didn't die as rotting corpse in the streets of Jerusalem would end up being carried off as slaves of iron taskmasters.
As King Solomon once said; "there is nothing new under the sun", Ecc. 1:9, In this day and age we are doing the very same thing. Even today, it ranges from pagan practices of Jeremiah's time to that of when Jesus' confronted the religious hypocrites of his day, the Pharisees who didn't understand the meaning of the law of God.
For from of old men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen a God besides thee, who worketh for him that waiteth for him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways:behold, thou wast wroth, and we sinned:in them have we been of long time; and shall we be saved? For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment:and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us by means of our iniquities. (Isa. 64:4-7)
But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season:that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:21-26)
Jesus didn't come and live with fallen mankind to prove and teach that it is possible for sinners to become righteousness through personal conduct founded upon a righteousness they do not have. No, what Jesus did was to be born then live among sinners and die for sinners at Calvary because only his sinless sacrifice could pay our debt of sin. Only our sinless Messiah Jesus Christ had the authority and power to come back from the grave three days later. As New Covenant believers we are imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, Phil. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16; 1 Peter 2:24 & Rom. 8:1-4.
In Ephesians chapter six we are commanded to wear 'the full armor of God'. Reading through this list of God's armor you will note that nothing a Christian puts on is made from self works. All our righteousness is a work of God. Either you repent of your own works and accept God's gift of salvation or you will have the Iron Yoke of Babylonian slavery to wear.
When you take up the 'yoke of Jesus' he will give you his Sabbath rest. Jesus, not a certain day, is our rest:
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:29-30)