What Have You Learned?
Tim Temple


Learning is a multifacted process; it is a tricky process. Many people learn because they are required to. They know that there is going to be a test; they know that there is going to be a grade. They have some reason like that to be learning. Other people do it because of some subject that they are interested in or fascinated with, and it is a lot easier to learn that way. Hopefully you who are learning because of grades and requirements are also able to study things that you are interested in. It is not always that way, but learning is something that has a lot of different aspects and a lot of different emphases. Many don't do it at all. They don't learn what they should learn. How many times has your mother said to you, “When will you ever learn?” Sometimes we say that to ourselves, “When am I ever going to stop making this mistake?” Learning is an important prospect. Sometimes as we get older, our memory or our loss thereof hinders that learning experience.

As we come to our last study of the book of Jeremiah, I want to ask you the question, “What have you learned as we have looked at the book of Jeremiah? What has God shown you from this book?” I want you to be thinking about that. Sooner or later all of our learning is faced with that question. In the academic world the question comes on the exams. Even though that question itself is usually not there, that is the focus of all the questions that are there: What have you learned?

As we look at the Word of God, we should ask ourselves that question. What have I learned as I have looked at God's Word? Even in our own personal times of Bible reading in our devotional time or whenever it might be that we read God's Word, we should be asking ourself that question and we should be reading the Scripture and studying the Scripture with that thought in mind. What am I going to learn from this? What am I learning from this?

The last five chapters of the book of Jeremiah might help tie all that together. The arrangement of the book of Jeremiah lends itself much better to looking at whole chapters. The thoughts and messages that Jeremiah had stretch over many more chapters than most of the books of the Bible do. They are arranged differently than most of the other books of the Bible.

In our last study we left Jeremiah sweltering in Egypt, an old man who had seen all of his prophecies come true. There was a very real sense in which Jeremiah was not happy that all of his prophecies had come true, but at the same time, it is a testimony of the fact that he had been faithful for more than forty years to what God gave him to do. He had preached to Judah for forty years plus, telling them that if they didn't turn back to God, they were going to lose their nation. They were going to lose their possessions and God would not be able to bless them. As he preached that message over and over again, he saw all of those things coming true, and he watched the nation crumble and fall apart morally and politically. He ultimately saw Jerusalem the city captured, the temple and the palace burned, the people taken into captivity and the king executed and all of these terrible things that took place that, sadly enough, could have been prevented had the people listened to Jeremiah.

God loved those people enough that He kept sending messages to them about how they could correct what was going on around them. But they didn't listen, and tradition says that Jeremiah himself was eventually killed by those very few people who were left in Judah and who then, against God's wishes, went to Egypt and there for hundreds and hundreds of years the record of the nation of Israel was disseminated into all the other nations of the world. They went out of existence as a nation at the end of Jeremiah's life. Yet, Jeremiah was faithful to God to the very end.

The book closes with a series of messages to the nations that surrounded Israel—five nations primarily, although he also singles out some of the leading provinces of a couple of those nations. These last five chapters address these nations surrounding Israel.

God's Sovereignty Over the Nations

Back in chapter 1, God had told Jeremiah that He was going to make him a messenger not only to the people of Israel, but also to the nations and the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down and to build and to plant. We have been looking at what Jeremiah said to the nations of Judah, which was the last section of the overall nation of Israel that was left. But now, as we wrap this up, we want to look at what he said to these other nations, and it is interesting to notice that this is the way that God deals with nations. God deals with nations primarily on a spiritual basis, not on a political basis or on a physical basis. We hear in the headlines and the newspapers all that is going on physically in these nations, and from a human standpoint, we would think that nations are run by kings and presidents and congresses. That is true, but underlying all of that is God's sovereignty over all of the nations of the world.

It is significant to us that God would speak to these nations physically surrounding Judah in Jeremiah's prophecies. These were the nations that were closest to Judah; these were the nations that should have learned something seeing all of this take place over the years. But it is significant to us because we are close to Judah; we are close to Israel spiritually and in some cases, probably physically. We are the spiritual descendants of the people to whom Jeremiah preached. And so just as those nations that physically surrounded Israel, we should be very careful to understand the message that God gave to Judah, to Israel.

That is the focus of these chapters. “Look and see what has happened to your neighbor because they did not obey my voice.” It emphasizes, too, the fact that God is sovereign over all the nations. We tend to talk about Israel and Judah because God tells us repeatedly that the Jewish people, by whatever their nation may be called, are His chosen people. I believe, and we have always taught at Abilene Bible Church, that that is an unending promise; and even today, the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, are God's chosen people. God's blessing is on them, and we need to be very alert to our relationship with Israel as a nation. But more important than that, it is the same God Who directed them and Who warned them Who also is sovereign over our lives.

These messages were apparently given at various times during Jeremiah's life and ministry, but they were compiled probably by Jeremiah himself and placed here at the end of the book. So he didn't give all these prophecies just one after another at one time. He gave them at various times and then, as sort of an editorial, Jeremiah put them all together and put them here at the end of the book. I believe he did that for the reasons that I have just been talking about—to show us the significance and the importance of looking at what happened to Israel.

We need to understand, as we look at these messages, that Scripture has various levels of application to us. First, we have the immediate application. These messsages were given on a historical and a political basis, so we can learn from these messages the historical importance and the political importance of them. But there is a second level of application, and that is the level of the typical or the symbolic application. We can learn from these messages what they represent to us, what they picture for us. That is what I have been talking about just now, the lessons we can learn even though we are in a different nation and a different time period. They typify to us, they picture to us, those lessons that we can learn from them. Of course, the third level is the personal application level. We want to think about, and one of the reasons that we have chosen to study the book of Jeremiah is what we can learn as a nation and as citizens of a nation. But it is most important, no matter what the rest of the nation may do, that we learn what we can for our personal lives and what our personal relationship with God should be and what we can learn about that from these messages to these nations.

Future Destruction of Egypt

As we come to chapter 46, the first country that Jeremiah addresses is the nation of Egypt. In chapter 46, there are two different messages that Jeremiah gave to Egypt on two different occasions. That part is really not that important to us because the theme of both messages was about the future destruction of Egypt. Again today, we are going to just be picking and choosing a few verses here and there to sort of get the gist of these messages, since we don't begin to have the time to look at all of them in detail. In chapter 46, notice verses 1-2, where we read:

Jeremiah 46:

1 The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;
2 Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.

Let's stop there with verse 2. Jeremiah, in the rest of this chapter, is going to be prophesying the destruction of Egypt, and he was prophesying this far in advance. We don't know when this message was given, but it was in advance of the eventual destruction of Egypt. The place that he mentions here, Carchemish, by the River Euphrates, became the name of one of the pivotal battles in the history of the world. Probably, if you have studied any amount of world history at all, you have heard of the battle of Carchemish, which took place in 605 BC. Jeremiah was prophesying that battle in advance. That was the battle in which Egypt ceased for centuries to be a world power. Egypt was the world power of that day up to that battle and even to this day she has never returned to her place of prominence. She was the leading power of the day, but Jeremiah said to Egypt in chapter 46, in the details that are here, “You are going to be destroyed. You are going to be removed from your place of world leadership.”

Let me suggest to you that that message would have been as foreign to the ears of the Egyptians as a message like that would be to us in the United States today. One of the things that Jeremiah brings out in this prophecy is the pride that the Egyptians had and at how unlikely it seemed that they could be overthrown by another nation because for centuries they had been a world super power. But now they were going to be defeated by Babylon. Verses 3-12 go on to describe that battle in very vivid terms and it is worth reading to read through that vivid, picturesque description of that battle.

In the midst of that description, though, there is a very important characterization of Egypt. This is where it begins to apply to us. Look at verse 7 and notice:

Jeremiah 46:

7 Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?
8 Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers…

Hold that thought in your mind because I want to point out to you that throughout the Scripture, the nation of Egypt pictures the world of the unsaved and their influence on the people of God. In using this term the world , I don't mean, and the Bible doesn't mean when it uses that term, every individual in the world. It means the attitude that unsaved people live with, that attitude of being able to do whatever they want to do and seeking as their highest goal their own pleasure and comfort. That is true of a lot of Christians, unfortunately, but it is particularly true of those who don't know Christ. And so Egypt, all through the Old Testament, pictures that attitude. That was the attitude of Egypt, and throughout the history of Israel, even right here at the very end, Israel wanted to go back to Egypt where they had been in slavery for 400 years.

The odd thing is that during most of that 400 years, they were under very oppressive slavery. They were immigrants there to begin with and in the very beginning had a very honored place, a very special place in Egypt. But the Scripture records those ominous words, “There arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph.” The time came when nobody remembered the great wisdom of Joseph and the people of Israel, so they then came under conditions of terrible slavery. But the interesting thing is that as we read through the Scripture and we have seen emphasis here in Jeremiah, hundreds and hundreds of years later what they remembered about Egypt from hearing their forefathers was all the food that was there and the security that was there and the ease of living that was there.

Some of you are old enough to remember a saying that was around back in the fifties and sixties—“Better red than dead!” Remember that? In the height of the cold war when the Communists were such a threat to us, and more real than imagined, there were those liberals who would be in favor of making concessions to the Soviet Union and trying to make a kind of treaty with them. Many times their philosophy would be summarized by the attitude, “It is better Red than dead. If the Communists are going to take over, let's make it as good as we can. Make it as easy on ourselves as we can.” That is the attitude of the world, not, “We will be victorious over the difficulties,” not, “We will grow through the difficulties and become better,” but, “Let's make it as easy on ourselves as we can. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die. You only go around once in life, so you had better get all the gusto you can get.”

That is the attitude of the world, and that is the way, for some reason, Israel remembered Egypt—a life of ease, a life of comfort, no problems. Egypt pictures that world that we still face, even though we don't have many problems with Egypt itself. To this day we are tempted, aren't we, when things get difficult in the Christian life, to go back to the world, at least in philosophy if not physically going back, to go back to that attitude of making everything as easy for ourselves as we can. The problem with that is that God deliberately brings difficulties into our lives. He brings testings into our lives. He brings us into situations lovingly and deliberately, situations that are difficult for us. God would warn us through the picture that Egypt raises for us not to go back to the world just because the going gets tough in the Christian life. That is always the message of this nation to us.

Characteristics of Worldliness

Back in verses 7-8, I told you to hold that thought. The particular characteristic of the world that is focused on in this chapter is waters that move like rivers. You see that in the last line of verse 8. How do rivers move? Particularly in West Texas, the rivers ebb and flow, don't they? We have just come through a period of tremendous flooding down in southwest Texas. Some of the rivers that flooded there became twenty times the width that they normally run. If you are not a native of West Texas, maybe you have noticed as you drive across a long bridge somewhere that way out in the middle of that bridge there is a little creek bed, maybe eight or ten feet wide. You wonder why in the world they built this long bridge across this little bitty river. If you come by there shortly after a rainy season, you understand why. The waters of a river ebb and flow. They surge and they recede. It is important for us to understand that that is a characteristic of the world also.

For us believers, if things are going along well, we don't worry about the world. We have a good relationship with the Lord. We are trusting Him, we are obeying Him, and He is blessing us. But then He brings us to a place of testing, and we begin to say, “Well, wait a minute, Lord. If this is the way it is going to be, I am going back to the world.” Then we get that straightened out with the Lord and we come back to fellowship with Him, and we go along fine for a little while, then another time of testing comes, another flood surges through our lives and we back away. That is the way the world is. And just because today things are going well with your walk with the Lord doesn't mean that there is not going to be another difficult time somewhere down the line.

Listen, God either brings those things into our lives or He allows Satan to bring those things into our lives for His purposes in maturing us and growing us and letting us have a chance to see His mighty hand at work. So we need to be careful that we don't succumb to the ebb and the flow of the rivers of the world.

The second message to Egypt is in verses 13-24, and it is another characteristic of worldliness that is brought out. Look down in verse 17. This is what their enemies said about Egypt:

Jeremiah 46:

17 They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.

Let's stop there with just that one verse. Probably you have heard me say by now that many times the proper nouns, the names that people had and the names that people gave each other in the Hebrew world are actually not proper nouns at all but they are sometimes just common nouns or common phrases that people apply as a name. That would be the case here. They were calling the king of Egypt the pharaoh of Egypt, a noise who had passed by the appointed time. If we were to put that in a descriptive form, we might transliterate that, “the noisy one who likes to kill time.” That is what the enemies said about Pharaoh during Jeremiah's day. I think that is another characterization of worldliness and of the world. For the unbeliever, for the person who doesn't know Christ, for the person who doesn't have God as the focal point of their life, what is it that they do? What is their purpose?

They don't have a purpose, except for their own pleasure. And you know, a great deal of what the world does, and you might use this as a checkpoint in your own life right now as a Christian, is simply killing time. They look for ways to fill time because there is no purpose. And so we have these years and hours and days and months of life, and what are we going to do with them? Let's just find something to do to kill time.

Let me quickly point out that there is a legitimate place for relaxation, even for Christians. There is nothing sinful about taking some time for yourself and getting some rest. On the other hand, we have to be very careful as Christians that we don't adopt that philosophy of the world and just be killing time.

I came across an editorial from an issue of Christianity Today of a few years ago. Let me just read this for you quickly. The editorial said, “Picture, if you will, some solar ray suddenly causing all radios, cassette players, stereo sets and televisions to stop working. Trembling hands impatiently twirl dials, adjust knobs, flip switches. Eyes are dilated with fear. Breathing comes in spasms. Marx was wrong. Religion isn't the opiate of the people, incessant sound is. We all listen to just about anything to avoid silence—long, pointless talk shows, boring conversations, round-the-clock news, and even rock and country music. We like sound because it blocks out the despairing cry of our own souls as well as the still small voice of God. But we need occasionally to take God's hand and journey into the fearful land of silence. It can be both painful and healing in the presence of the One Who is able to still the despairing cry and give us a new song of thanks.”

You see, there is a place for taking time to be with God, and it is so easy to get caught up in all that is going on around us in the world that when it is all said and done, it is largely just a way to kill time. The writer of this editorial uses sound as one of the examples, but there are many other things, too. Many of us have been commenting lately that it seems to have reached a high point, a crescendo, of all of the activities that are going on. Everybody is so busy. We think about that in terms of planning church activities. Do you know that it is impossible to find a single night of the week when we could expect everybody in the church to be here if we wanted to have some kind of a seminar, some kind of a special meeting. People are doing so many things. We have sports for our kids all year round, and many kids are involved in all those sports. Most of them are involved in two or three. We have all kinds of social clubs and just all kinds of activities. That is a mark of the world.

I am not saying it is a sin to have a kid in little league or playing soccer. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that all of us, on behalf of our children and on behalf of ourselves, need to find ways to be sure that we are using our time in a way that has a point, in a way that matters instead of just killing time and hoping to somehow get through life without being bored. To be able to be quiet and to be still and to listen for the voice of God is a tremendous objective.

Worldliness Will Always be with Us

That is the world, coming at us in cycles, trying to get us to think only in terms of our comfort and our own indulgence, never taking time to listen to the voice of God. Interestingly enough, though, verse 26 brings out the prophecy far into the future. God says:

Jeremiah 46:

26 And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.

Notice the last line, “Afterward it shall be inhabited as in the days of old, says the LORD.” The reason I read that particular verse is to remind you of the power of God and the sovereignty of God and the power of fulfilled prophecy. God sent Egypt into obscurity, just exactly as He predicted in advance that He would. But Jeremiah said, “Egypt will come back.” For centuries Egypt was basically lost in the dust. It was not even a national entity for much of that time, certainly not a world power. But God said it would come back and it has. We know that today Egypt is one of the more major players in the world system in the relationship of nations. That validates the power of prophecy, but it also reminds us that the world, which is what Egypt pictures, will always be with us. It may come to that place in our lives, as we mature in Christ, where it doesn't have much power. It may come to the place where the world system and the world thinking is kind of an obscure part of our life, but it is always there. We always need to be on our guard against it because it, like the nation of Egypt, could come back to a place of power in our lives.

The second nation that is prophesied to is the nation of the Philistines, in chapter 47. We have all heard of the Philistines because the giant, Goliath, you remember, was a Philistine. The Philistines lived along the western border of Israel, along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. They were a constant threat to Israel all through the Old Testament. In fact, the name Palestine , that we apply to that whole part of the world today, comes from this term Philistines . They lent their name, even to this day, to that area. These people were in the land of the Israelites, but they were not the people of God. They were in the land with the people of God, but they were not God's people. The Philistines picture for us the fact that among us as believers, there are always unbelievers. Among us as believers, there are always Christians who are living like non-Christians, Christians who are living like unbelievers. We sometimes refer to them as carnal Christians . Whatever term you want to use, among us as believers in Christ, among us who are trying to walk closely with the Lord, are those who are not. That is a continual influence on us that we need to be cautious about. Those same tendencies are within ourselves as we have just been talking about.

Destruction of Philistines Promised

In chapter 47, verses 1-4, God promises their destruction. Notice:

Jeremiah 47:

1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.
2 Thus saith the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl.
3 At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands;
4 Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor.

In other words, the Philistines are going to be history. God is going to completely wipe them out. The Philistines disappeared just as Jeremiah prophesied that they would. They were wiped out ultimately by the Babylonians and were scattered among the other nations. Probably many of you here today have met a Jew; maybe some of you have close friends who are Jews; maybe there is even someone here today who is a Jew by birthright. How many of you have ever met a Philistine? That nation was completely wiped out and absorbed into the other nations around the world. This is a reminder that the day will come for us when all of these pressures of the world and of the flesh and the devil will be wiped out of our lives. When we stand in the Lord's presence, we will no longer have to worry about these problems and these pressures that the world places upon us and sometimes, particularly in the lives of people who are mixed in with us, in our churches and in our Christian circles.

Nations Representative of the Flesh

Chapter 48 mentions a whole group of nations—Moab, Amon, Edom, Damascus and Kedar. Those nations are what today we primarily think of as Arabia or the Arab States. They represent another concern for Christians. Egypt and the Philistines represent the worlds' enmity against us as believers, but these five nations mentioned in chapter 48 were all in one way or another relatives of descendants of Israel. So they represent what the Bible calls the flesh . Let me just read a couple of familiar verses that show us that usage, and we will recognize them probably. Romans, chapter 8, verse 4, says:

Romans 8:

4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Paul uses that term, “the flesh,” to refer to our sin nature, that ability that we have to commit sin. Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16, says:

Galatians 5:

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

I just wanted to give these verses to you as examples of how the Bible uses the flesh. It is a reference to our sinfulness, our sin nature. These nations represent that because our sin nature is a part of us and those nations were a part of Abraham. They are descendants of Abraham and of Israel.

Moab and Amon are mentioned in chapter 48, and on into the first few verses of chapter 49. These nations descended from two sons of Lot. Remember Lot was the one who lived in Sodom, that perverted, sinful city that God destroyed. He destroyed those nations but Lot and his daughters survived. Lot's wife turned around and looked at the destruction of the city and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters survived, and apparently they thought they were the only people left in the earth, so his two daughters got Lot drunk and both of them were impregnated by him while he was drunk. Out of those two sons eventually descended these nations of Moab and Amon. They settled in what is the present day nation of Jordan.

Chapter 48, verse 11, gives us a sense of this passage. Look at verse 11:

Jeremiah 48:

11 Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.

The nation of Moab is off the beaten track kind of like West Texas. You didn't go through Moab on your way to anywhere. You had to be going to Moab; you had to have business in Moab if you were going there. It was off out there by itself. The conquerors who passed through conquering all the other nations would bypass Moab, so for hundreds of years, Moab had never had their mouth go dry with fear. You see the phrase, “his taste remained in him.” They had never been soaked with the scent of terror. Their scent had not changed. They didn't know what it was to be attacked by another nation, and therefore they were complacent; they were proud; they were self-satisfied.

That is a perfect picture of the self-confidence and the pride of our flesh. If we walk at the direction of our flesh, of our sinfulness, we have great confidence in ourselves until some problem comes along that is bigger than we can handle. Verses 12-13 say that God is going to change all that for Moab. Notice as we read:

Jeremiah 48:

12 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.
13 And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel their confidence.

Those are false gods that Israel had adopted and Moab had adopted. The reason for their defeat is down in verse 29:

Jeremiah 48:

29 We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.
30 I know his wrath, saith the LORD; but it shall not be so; his lies shall not so effect it.

This is the major way that the flesh attacks us, through that loftiness and arrogance and pride and haughtiness that these verses speak about. Incidentally, if you are feeling that way today, if you think you have life pretty well in hand, that you really don't need God's help very much, then that is where it is coming from. That is a product of the flesh. The product of walking at the direction of the Spirit is humility and thankfulness to God for what He accomplishes in our lives, not that pride of thinking, “I can do whatever it takes to meet my own needs.” God is going to judge Moab for that, and God may bring discipline into your life if you continue with that kind of attitude.

Moab to be Restored

Verse 47 says that God will restore Moab. Notice:

Jeremiah 48:

47 Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

He doesn't really elaborate on it, but He says that someday Moab is going to come back from this judgment that He is going to bring on them. I believe that prophecy is fulfilled in the emergence of modern day Jordan. You know, God does an amazing thing for these nations that we are talking about here, unbeknownst to them for thousands of years. He placed a treasure chest of oil underneath all that sand, and because of the way history has developed, and we have this insatiable need for oil in our modern world, those nations have come back into prominence.

God knew that all these years in advance. He said, “I am going to bring Moab back someday,” and that is the modern nation of Jordan. In fact, if you think about the nation of Ammon that is mentioned in chapter 49, verse 6, He says, “I am going to bring back the people of Ammon.” Do you remember what the name of the capital city of Jordan is? It is Amman. That is a reference to this same group of people. The Edomites and the Ammonites were together brought back into what is known today as the nation of Jordan.

The rest of chapter 49 contains prophecies against Edom, which is north of the Dead Sea, and it is very much that same kind of prophecy about their dependence of their own pride and their own self-satisfaction.

The last two nations in this five-nation group are in the last part of chapter 49 and going on into chapter 50. These are the the Arab nations. In chapter 49, verse 23, he mentions Damascus. He is going to destroy Damascus. Then in verses 28-33, the Arabian nations of Kedar and Hazor are mentioned. These nations were descended from Ishmael, Abraham's son by Hagar. Again, they represent that flesh. Abraham took matters into his own hands and tried to bring about the promised son, so those nations represent the flesh, and God promises to destroy them. These nations represent the restlessness of the flesh because these were nomadic tribes and they just moved around all the time. As we mentioned earlier, that is a part of the flesh—that restlessness, that always trying to find something more. The old saying, “As a rule a man's a fool, never wanting what he's got, always wanting what is not.” Have you heard that phrase? That is a good picture of the flesh. It is not in the Bible anywhere, but my mother used to quote it to me. That is the flesh—always wanting what is not, never wanting what he's got. That dissatisfaction is a part of the world.

Finally, in the last part of chapter 49 and going into chapters 50 and 51, the last two nations of Jeremiah's prophecy are Elam and Babylon. Elam was actually a province of Babylon in Jeremiah's day, but he singles it out for a word from God. The reason for that is in chapter 49, verse 34. Notice:

Jeremiah 49:

34 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying,
35 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might.

Elam was the strongest province of Babylon. It was the area where they got most of their warriors. Notice that he talks about them in terms of a bow in verse 35. He speaks of the bow of Elam. The bow was the ultimate weapon in Jeremiah's day or in the days of Babylon because it was the first capability that they had to strike from a distance. Before this, they had to get close enough to chunk a spear at somebody or to hit them with a club. But when the bow was developed, they could sit on their horse a hundred, two hundred yards away and shoot a bow at their enemy. This is something that characterizes Satan's ability to strike at us from a distance. Do you remember in Ephesians, chapter 6, where he talks about the fiery darts of the wicked? Satan has that ability to fire darts at us like Elam and Babylon. One of the reasons they came to such strength and prominence was that they developed the bow and the arrow.

Satan does that to us, doesn't he? Sometimes we are in a time of prayer, and the most wicked thoughts can come into our minds, thoughts like hatred for somebody that we started out praying for or jealousy of somebody or all kinds of things. Those are the fiery darts of the wicked one that come at us unsuspectingly, unseen. Maybe we are in the middle of rejoicing over some blessing and doubt comes into our hearts. Have you had that experience? Those are the fiery darts of the wicked one. Scripture tells us that our victory over that comes from the use of the Word of God—the breastplate of righteousness, the armor that is described there in Ephesians, chapter 6. God promises to judge that in the national scene. He also tells us that He can, through the power and the strength of His Word and His presence in our lives, judge that in our lives.

Restoration of Babylon and Elam

Ultimately though, God promises restoration of Babylon and of Elam, down in chapter 49, verse 39:

Jeremiah 49:

39 But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the LORD.

If you were to go to a map of the Old Testament and compare it with a modern day map, guess where you would find Elam and Babylon—in what is now the nations of Iran and Iraq. God brought them back. Here is another fulfillment of prophecy. Babylon was ultimately destroyed by the Medes and the Persians and assimilated into the Medo-Persian empire and not heard from again for centuries as a specific nation. It is not known as Babylon, but the power and the philosophy of Babylon is back on the scene in terms of Iraq and Iran.

Judgment of Babylon

Chapters 50-51 are devoted to the judgment of Babylon. Throughout the Scripture, Babylon is a picture of Satan and his enmity against God. Read through the book of Daniel and you can see the picture of how Babylon was the opposite of what God wanted—the enemy of God.

It is interesting to me that Sadaam Hussein refers to America as the great Satan . Ayatolah Komehni, in Iran a few years ago, said America was the great Satan , and people are trained to chant that even if they don't know what it means. God says that Babylon is a picture of the real Satan. It is ironic that Sadaam Hussein is, I am sure without even knowing it, reversing what God says about him and about his nation. The tower of Babel, that representative of the power of humanity, was built in the beginnings of Babylon, in what ultimately became Babylon. God says that someday, and I think we are seeing the beginnings of it now, the Babylonian Empire is going to be resurrected. One of the things that we hear about Sadaam Hussein, although who knows what you can believe about him, but one of the things that we hear about him is that he is planning to rebuild the ancient city of Babylon, and in fact, make that his capital. The book of Revelation speaks of Babylon being the great center of commerce in the world at the end of time. It will be destroyed and wiped out.

Two Important Messages

All of this taken together has two important messages for us as we wrap up what we have learned from the book of Jeremiah. I think the message of the book to us is twofold. First, we have seen how God's people continuously struggle and rebel against God until He finally lets them have their own way. And their own way led to absolute destruction. That is a tendency we need to be on guard against. We still have that desire, don't we, to do it our way? When God says, “Don't do this,” or “Do this,” our tendency so often is to say, “Surely that couldn't be right. I think what I want to do is better.” Jeremiah teaches us the importance of doing it God's way, even if we can't see why He would want us to. What happens when we don't? Ultimately, the destruction of all of our plans and all of our hopes.

We have seen, secondly, Jeremiah's faithfulness to God even in the midst of all that rejection and failure on the part of the people around him. But I believe the overall message of the book is summarized in these last five messages to these surrounding nations. As I have tried to point out, these five nations represent the enemies that are fielded against us. They represent the devil and the two channels in which he attacks us—the flesh, which is our own sin nature and the world around us. The fulfilled prophecy about them gives us confidence that God can deliver us from those enemies that surround us. A quick read of the daily paper will show that Satan and his forces are as powerful today as they have ever been. But by the use of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can survive that power that he aims at us, those fiery darts that he aims at us. That is the first message of the book—how we are to live spiritually in the world, learning from how Judah and Israel lived physically.

The other message of the book is that God does deal with all the nations of the world, not just Israel. As I said earlier, we tend to think of Israel as the people of God, and God just deals with Israel. These chapters show us that God deals with all nations of the world. All the nations of the world are answerable to Him. He is sovereign over all of us, and these five were singled out for warnings because of their physical proximity to Israel. I believe God would have us study Jeremiah to give us warnings because of our spiritual proximity to Israel. The only hope of our nation to not follow in the footsteps of Judas—unfaithful to God—is to be faithful to Him and His principles as a nation. That is true for any nation, but particularly this nation which was founded on the principles of the Word of God.

Historians try to hide that, and modern thinkers try to deny that, but it is a matter of history. This particular nation was founded on the principles of the Word of God. We must not follow in the footsteps of God's own people in Judah and Israel who turned away from Him.


The timing of the finish of this study is fascinating to me, and I see this happen again and again as we study the various books of the Bible. Here we are, two days before our national elections in the United States. I did decide to study Jeremiah at this time because I thought it was applicable to us as a nation in these disturbing times that we live in, but there is no way I could have planned for the study to end two days before the elections.

Here we are with those tremendously powerful illustrations of what happens to God's people when we are unwilling to live by His principles, and we find these principles summarized for us two days before we have the God-given privilege of going out to vote, to choose those who will be in authority over us, a privilege that no other nation in the world has had, to choose our own authorities to whom God tells us to be submissive. I have to admit that nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shalt vote.” At the same time, God is sovereign over this nation as well as all others. This nation was founded to promote and portray the principles of God's Word in the everyday lives of people, and part of that unique design of our nation is the privilege of voting. You may not agree with what I am about to say, but I am going to say it anyway. I believe that the failure of a Christian to vote is a mark of abject thanklessness for the privilege that God has given us to live in this nation.

We marvel as we read these books of the Old Testament about how God's own people thumbed their noses at Him, laughed at Him, chose false gods to worship instead of Him. We've seen all of that in Jeremiah and many of the other Old Testament books and we wonder, “How could people do that?” What have you learned? I believe if we don't participate in the opportunities for leadership in the various kinds of participation in our own nation, we are in the same league as those people who thumbed their noses at Him and refused to obey what He told them as a nation and as individuals to do. I close with the question, what have you learned from Jeremiah?

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