TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 44-46
“And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” – Jeremiah 45:5
Jesus is the image of God, the radiance of God’s glory, the exact imprint of God’s nature. Jesus, and Jesus alone, reveals to us the true character of God. Therefore, we must understand and interpret everything about God in the Bible through what we know about Jesus.
So, in the verse above, God says, “I am bringing disaster upon flesh.”
Does that reconcile with what Jesus reveals to us about God? Does Jesus ever bring disaster on anyone in the gospels?
Obviously, Jesus does not bring disaster on anyone in the gospels.
So, what are we to make of this statement – “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh” – that is attributed to God?
The Hebrew word for disaster is ra’ah. It means evil, wickedness, depravity, misfortune, disaster.
Right away there should be some cognitive dissonance in our mind when the Bible says that God is bringing evil, wickedness, depravity, disaster on anything. For, in Luke 18:19, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Since God alone is good, and not only is he alone good but he is only good, the statement “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh” should immediately cause discord in our mind that needs to be reconciled. For, how could a God that alone is good and is only good bring disaster, evil, wickedness, or depravity on his very own creation, which when he was finished making it he declared it very good?
Ra’ah is used 313 times in the Old Testament.
The first use of ra’ah is in Genesis 6:5, which says, “The Lord saw the wickedness [ra’ah] of man was great in the earth, and the every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Where does wickedness, evil, disaster, depravity come from?
Man, because every intention of the thoughts of his heart is evil. And, verse 6 tells us that the wickedness that came from man’s heart grieved God.
If evil, wickedness, disaster, and depravity, then would God respond in kind by bringing a flood to wipe out man?
Absolutely not. For, this would violate the character and nature of God that Jesus was the image of and the exact imprint of. In Matthew 5:44-48, Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You there must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
God loves his enemies. He returns good for evil. Therefore, God did not cause or bring the flood, at least in the sense that we think of those terms cause and bring.
In Jeremiah, ra’ah is used 90 times. This is nearly one third of all the uses in the entire Old Testament. And, Jeremiah uses ra’ah nearly three times as much as any other book of the Bible. So, if we want to understand the statement “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh,” then we really need to understand what Jeremiah means.
Jeremiah 18:11 says, “Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.'”
Here we see that the disaster God is shaping is a plan that he has devised. This was plan was designed to cause us to return from our ways and correct our ways and deeds. The disaster caused devised was meant to turn us from evil for, as Genesis 6:5 said, wickedness and evil and disaster came from our hearts not God.
In Jeremiah 17:14-17, Jeremiah offers a very interesting prayer related to the disaster God is said to bring.
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. Behold, they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come!’ I have not run away from being your shepherd, nor have I desired the day of sickness. You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face. Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let those by put to shame who persecute me, but let me not be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed; bring upon them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction.”
If ever there were words in the Old Testament that could be attributed to Jesus, then these are those words.
Jesus put his trust in the Father to heal and to save him on the cross. The Father was the praise of Jesus’ lips. He always point everyone to the Father.
Those around Jesus constantly derided him about the words he spoke. In particular, while Jesus was on the cross the people mocked him and dared him to prove that all the words he spoke, even the words that he could raise the temple in three days, were actually the words of God. They dared him to come down from the cross and prove that his words were truly from the Lord.
Jesus did not run away from the being the shepherd of God’s people. Jesus did not turn away from the cross but marched steadfastly towards it. Yet, Jesus did not desire that day of sickness as he asked God to take away the cup that he was to drink three times in the garden of Gethsemane. Yet, Jesus said not his will but the Father’s must be done.
Jesus knew that God was not a terror to him. The Father would not ever do evil to him. And, Jesus knew that the Father was his refuge in the day of disaster. What else could this day of disaster be other than the day of Jesus’ crucifixion?
Jesus asked that those who persecuted him would be put to shame. Not to punish them, but to get them to return from their own evil ways. Isn’t this what we see in Acts 2 after Peter preaches the first sermon about how the people gathered had crucified the Messiah and the people were cut to the heart? They were put to shame for what they had done.
So, Jesus prays that God would bring upon his persecutors the day of disaster and that they would be destroyed with double destruction. Again, the day of disaster can be nothing other than the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. And, that disaster was designed to cause his persecutors to return from their own evil eyes. It was the evil ways of Jesus’ persecutors, not the people themselves, that he asked the Father to destroy with double destruction.
Jeremiah 45:5 that I quoted at the beginning of this post was spoken to Baruch the son Neriah by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is a type of Jesus as we saw in his prayer from chapter 17.
Baruch means blessed. And, Neriah means Yahweh is a lamp or the lamp of the Lord. Baruch the son of Neriah then is one who is blessed by the lamp of the Lord. Jesus is the lamp and the Holy Spirit is the one that comes forth from the lamp to bless.
So, Jesus says to one who is blessed by the lamp of the Lord, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give your life as a prize of war in all places to which you go.”
How did Jesus do this?
How does he do this for us?
How does Jesus bring disaster upon all flesh?
Jesus is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. He has always been the lamb of God that would be crucified for the cross is the way that we know God’s love.
Peter says in Acts 2:23, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Remember, In Jeremiah God said he shaping disaster and devising a plan against us to get us to return from our own evil ways. This is just what Peter says.
But, who carried out the plan?
Who carried out the actual evil and wickedness on the day of disaster?
“You crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.”
We carried out the disaster. We did the evil and wicked act of crucifying God.
But, God’s plan was that when we saw this, when we truly understood what we did Jesus, it would shock us out of our evil ways so that we would become peacemakers with Jesus.
Further, Roman 8:3-4 says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
This is how Jesus brought disaster upon flesh. On the day of disaster, his day of crucifixion, Jesus’ body was made to be sin for us. He bore in his body all the evil, wickedness, depravity, and disaster that man could dish out. And, then he condemned sin in the flesh.
Yes, God and Jesus truly did bring disaster upon all flesh. But, not the way we would think at first glance or by reading the mere letter of words. To truly understand the disaster God brings, we have to go deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.
On one side of the disaster that Jesus brings, Jeremiah says, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.”
This foreshadows what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Don’t seek the great things, the things of this world. Instead, seek the kingdom of God. Seek life, God’s life, for that is the kingdom.
On the other side of the disaster that Jesus brings, Jeremiah says, “But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all the places to which you may go.”
For our life to be a prize of war, there had to be a war fought and won. Jesus fought and the won the war with Satan, sin, and death on the cross. Through the day of disaster, Jesus gives us our life as a prize of war.
But, only if we return from our own evil ways.
Therefore, in Luke 9:23-24, Jesus said, “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.”
When we see the truth of the day of disaster, the disaster that God brings, we pick up our own cross, we lay down our lives, we return from our evil and wicked lays, so that we can love as God loves and be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Yes, God brings disaster.
But, he does it by dying.