Jeremiah 15 – The Lord tells Jeremiah that things have gotten so bad, even Moses and Samuel would not be able to convince Him to take these people back. “I will make them an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem” (15:4).
In 2 Kings 21, Manasseh was 12 when he become king and reigned 55 years. He rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed; he erected altars to Baal and a sacred pole, altars in the temple for the whole host of heaven. He immolated his own son by fire, practiced soothsaying and divination, reintroduced the consulting of ghosts and spirits. His son Amon did more of the same for two years. But then Josiah came to the throne at the age of eight.
It is more obvious from the passages in this chapter that, though the disgraces and sufferings brought upon Judah are seen as from the Lord -- “I was weary of sparing you” 15:6 -- there is definitely a sense here that these are sufferings that have come about “naturally” as we would say, “historically” from the wrong choices and stupidity of a people who have lost their way morally.
The prophet is in anguish: “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! A man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet all curse me” (15:10). “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!” (15:18) The Lord tells Jeremiah that he too must repent and be a pure “mouthpiece.” (15:19).
Jeremiah 16 - The prophet is told he should not marry, for the “sword and famine will make an end” of the children of this generation. And Jeremiah is told he must not grieve for his people because “I have withdrawn by peace from this people” (16:5).
He must not rejoice with them either, for God will stop their joy. When they ask why, he is to tell them it is because both previous generations and this generation too have forsaken the Lord. But Jeremiah also prophesies a restoration that will be equated with Israel’s first redemption from the slavery of Egypt. The restoration of the people when they repent will be a new story of liberation like the one of Moses (16:14-15).
Jeremiah’s prophesy extends also to the “heathen.” Someday they too will realize the gods they worship are “empty idols of no use” (16:19), and they too “shall know that my name is Lord” (16:31).
Jeremiah 17 - Jeremiah tells them they will be enslaved. “A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from Yahweh. He is like a dry scrub in the wastelands: if good comes, he has no eyes for it, he settles in the parched places of the wilderness, a salt land, uninhabited. A blessing on the man who puts his trust in Yahweh, with Yahweh for his hope, he is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit” (JB 17:5-8)
Then more deep words: “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways. . .” (NAB 17:9-10)
The man who puts his trust in human beings, into the kind of shallow values and pursuits that are characteristic of human striving, shall be like a barren bush. But the man who trusts in God, in things of the spirit, he shall be like a tree planted beside the waters. For the life of the person rooted in the stream will endure hardship. As far as why the human heart seems so inclined to put his trust in superficial, material and passing things, this is a mystery “beyond remedy” he says.
“Heal me, Yahweh, and I shall be really healed; save me and I shall be saved. . .” (17:14).
The chapter ends with prayers for justice (as between Jeremiah and his enemies) and reminders about the importance of the Sabbath.
Jeremiah 18 - Yahweh is likened to a potter who finds flaws with his work and refashions it to perfect his creative intention. God does change his mind if people repent and changes his mind too if we enter apostasy. “Sometimes I threaten to uproot and tear down and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation . . .turns from its evil, I also repent of the evil which I threatened to do” (18:7-8). Blessings are not guaranteed. The passage is interesting for its universality; it is not directed to Israel alone. Yahweh says, “my people have forgotten me! They burn their incense to a nothing. They have lost their footing in their ways, on the road of former times, to walk in tortuous paths, a way unmarked. They will make their country desolate.” (JB 18:15).
The men of Judah plot against Jeremiah, seeking to destroy him by using his own words against him (perhaps those words which could be interpreted as disloyal to the nation – his advice on surrender, for example). Jeremiah looks to God to keep him in mind (JB v18:8-20).
Jeremiah. 19 – He continues preaching his message of doom. A plot is devised to silence Jeremiah. He calls God’s wrath down on them. He uses the breaking of the jug as a symbol of what God, the potter, will do.
2 Corinthians 1 - In his opening and thanksgiving, Paul refers to God as the “God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged. . .” (1:3). We are strengthened by God that we may be equipped to pass on that strength to others, to make them feel that there is a source of strength and comfort for every affliction in our God. He tells them something they apparently already know—that he had to pass through some severe affliction in Asia, an affliction that “utterly weighed” him down; but he was delivered.
He speaks of knowing that he has conducted himself toward them “with the simplicity and sincerity of God” through God’s grace (1:12). He had planned to come to them on his way to Macedonia and then to return through Corinth again back to Judaea. But apparently he had to change plans and go from Troas (NW Anatolia]; they are disappointed, but he isn’t coming so as not to inflict pain on them. He wrote scolding them, not to cause them pain but to show his love.
2 Corinthians 2 - He urges them to show love to “wrong-doers” they may have in their community. He will not argue with them for having forgiven them (2:10). He speaks of the opportunities that are created for the gospel - just by the “odor” or aroma believers give off—“an odor of life that leads to life” (2:16).
George Fox refers to this as well—see page 27 of his Journal where he says, “All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter.” Everything that touches the salvation work of God has this aroma.