Jeremiah 44 – The Refugees Rebuked & Fear

I want to change the subject a bit, but the Jews didn’t fear You, they…

Jeremiah 44
The Refugees Rebuked

A good deal of information concerning life in the Jewish settlement at the border station of Syene/Yeb during the fifth century BCE comes from the Elephantine papyri.

1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,

44:1-30 – the last of Jeremiah’s recorded prophesies.

2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein,

3 Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.

5 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.

6 Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured for

The Goddess Ishtar – “The Lightbringer.”
Babylonian High-Mother-Goddess.  Like Inanna, she is the goddess of fertility, love and war.

Her cult was the most important one in ancient Babylon and Ishtar became under various
names the most important Goddess of the Near-East and Western Asia.

th, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.

7 Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain;

8 In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?

9 Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?

10 They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.

11 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.

12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.

13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence:

14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.

Reconstruction of the inner chamber of the Temple of Athena in Athens. The statue of Athena shows her as the goddess of war.

15 Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,

16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.

17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

“We have wanted all things” – beginning with Josiah’s death in 609 B.C., a series of disasters, including invasion and exile, had struck Judah.  The people understandably (though mistakenly) attributed their misfortune to their failure to worship the queen of heaven.

19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?

Since Ishtar (“queen of heaven”) was a Babylonian goddess of fertility, women played a major role in her worship.

Reconstruction of the inner chamber of the Temple of Zeus,at the ancient town of Olympia on the west coast of Greece.

20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,

21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?

22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

23 Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.

24 Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt:

25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.

26 Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth.

Woman at a window, ivory plaque, Nimrud
The theme of the ‘woman at the window’ appears several times in the Bible, but its exact significance is lost.

27 Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.

28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or their’s.

29 And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil:

30 Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaoh-hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.

“Pharaoh-hophra” – ruled Egypt 589-570 B.C.

Fear

Many people ask, “Is fear a sin?”  That’s a loaded question because the answer is based on each person’s faith and relationship they have with God.

Baal
The Canaanites worshipped several gods; the two most important were Asherah and Baal. Asherah was the mother of Baal and is often shown with a Tree of Life.

In regard to myself, it begs the question.  Fear is a sin, but not an iniquity. 

For me to ask that question about myself would be like me asking, “Who’s buried in Grants grave?” or “Is the Pope Catholic?” 

“The sin of being fearful” and “Fearing God,” is not exactly the same.  For example, you can believe in evolution and God?   But, you can’t believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and God. 

Why is Fear a Sin for Me?

Faith is not a product that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or a trade you can learn at a university, it is a gift from God.  Faith in God can only come from the source, God.  You can ask for more faith and He’ll give it to you but He’ll give it to you in His time, not yours.

The relationship I have with Jesus Christ changed me drastically.  I am overwhelmed by how powerful God is, how incredible He is, and how giving He is.

I have only walked with God for a little more than six years but in those years my faith has grown to such a degree that for me to fear anything but Him would be a sin because it would be the same as me saying “God can’t help me,” “God can’t fix this,” or “God won’t help me,” all three of them would be lies.

Hypothetically Story

I go to a new school where I don’t know anyone.  I’m shy, so I’m nervous, so I keep to myself just waiting for the day to get over with so I can go home.  Shyness is a personality trait and I have no control over it.  But, do I have control over my nervousness that is due to my shyness?

My shyness is not the sin.  The sin is fear.  Fear, not shyness, is the foundation of my nervousness.

Remember, I have a great amount of faith in God because He has shown me how glorious He truly is.  Therefore, if instead of walking boldly with God I choose to sleek around in the dark shadows I have put my fear before Him and therefore I have sinned.

Fear is the greatest enemy of faith and if given the opportunity it will destroy it.

If your faith is weak the devil is going to get you because you are saying, “The devil is more powerful than God.”

The author of Hebrews shows exactly what faith is and lets you know that without faith you have nothing:

“Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:1, 6).

The above scripture is clear, if you don’t have faith in Him then He’s displeased.  You don’t have to do any tricks or anything to please God, all you have to do is have faith in Jesus Christ.

Fight the Good Fight

Fighting the good fight doesn’t mean to fight the devil and his demons, it means to stand up for God at all costs.

Peter and Paul both warn us about how wicked and evil Satan is.  We are no match for the devil, he can tear us up into tiny pieces and not break a sweat.

We need to keep on our toes at all times, that doesn’t mean to fear him because he’s nothing to fear if you trust Jesus, but you need to:

“Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph 6:11-18).

The above scripture is key to keeping the devil in his place.  Here’s the tricky part, you can’t put on the full armor of God to remove fear, that’s not how it works, that’s like putting the cart before the horse.

To be able to walk with God (wear the full armor) you have to trust Him.  Look at the armor of God as chainmail.

Peter tells us to:

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Casting all your care upon him for he careth for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:6-8).

That means to always treat people with respect, always wear God’s chainmail, trust Him at all times, keep your mind intact (don’t alter your mind in any way), and be prepared for the danger the devil may throw at you.

Bad things happen to everybody, and when that situation comes about you have to cling to God, don’t run away from Him.  You need to let go and let God deal with it in whatever way He chooses because He will ALWAYS give you the best outcome.

It is rare for God to do what you pray for because we aren’t as smart as we think we are.  As I said, He will always give you the best outcome, but sometimes the greatness of the outcome may take a while to come to the top of the surface. 

While you are waiting for it to surface things could be tough for a while, but in time the outcome will surface and it will be amazing.  I speak from experience.

When a Sin is not a Sin

I said at the beginning that when I fear I commit a sin and yes, it’s a sin against God because it attacks my faith in Him.  Yet, it’s a sin that strengthens me.  God doesn’t chastise me for it, He welcomes it.

Analogy

God tells me to go ride my bicycle and as I’m riding I go over a rough part of the road and it throws me and the bicycle into a flower garden.  I skin my knee enough to bleed, plus the flowers are damaged.

So I ask, “Father, what should I do now?”

He says, “I’ll take care of the flowers, get back on the bicycle and ride.”

I’m a big guy, 6’2”, 200 pounds, but spiders creep me out.  I think they are amazing, the things they do and I think many of them are beautiful, but they are much more beautiful and amazing when they’re behind glass or in a picture.

I’m afraid of heights.  I can get on a plane, go across a bridge that is extremely high off the ground and I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building.  But if I’m 10 feet off the ground without a structure holding me there fear sets in.

So do you think that my fear of spiders and heights is a sin?  You bet it is for me because the amount of faith God has given me.

It’s just like Peter walking on water (Matt 14:22-33).  He had no problem doing that, until his attention moved from Jesus to the waves, and then fear consumed him, his faith crumbled and he started to drown. 

Was that a sin?  You bet.  But what did Jesus do:

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him and said, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31).

Jesus didn’t punish Peter for his weakness, He let him knew why he was going to drown.  It’s the same with my spiders and heights (not meaning that I’m like Peter), what do I have to fear?  Nothing at all because nothing can happen to me that God doesn’t allow and if He allows it then it’s a good thing whether I like it at the time or not.

The Fear of God

Fearing God and spiders are not the same.  Always remember:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7).

I can’t really explain what it means to fear God, but I can tell you it’s fantastic.  When I was finally able to truly fear Him (I still have the spider problem) what I acknowledged was incredible.  I have never felt so protected.  His power, might and love is beyond our ability to even describe it.

I can understand why fear for some is a sin and not for others.  The more faith someone has in You the more opportunities there are to sin, but they also sin less because they don’t want to sin.

Those that don’t care if they sin are those that don’t believe in You or even if they believe, if they don’t care if they sin, they aren’t saved anyway.  I remember that Jesus said:

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Lk 12:48).

 

…feared Ishtar, the queen of heaven.  That is so bizarre that they would worship an idol that was manmade.  I’m curious to know about this ridiculous idea.