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Lesson 10: The Destruction of Jerusalem *

Introduction: In Jeremiah 17:9 he says "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" We have an incredible ability to deceive ourselves. Those who reject God have an argument, they have a reason, for their evil behavior. Jeremiah saw a people engaged in the most bizarre behavior. On the one hand they claimed to be following God, and on the other hand they rejected God. Why not just reject God and drop the pretense? Is this something that we should be worried about, since we claim to follow God? Let's dig into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Excuse

    1. Read Ezekiel 8:9-11. What is in front? (The elders performing a ritual that seems to be serving God.)

      1. What is in the back? (Idols and detestable things.)

      2. Ezekiel is given a vision of what is going on during Jeremiah's time. How would you characterize what Ezekiel saw? (Hypocrisy. The "front" looks proper, but what is going on in back is far from proper.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 8:12. What reasons do the elders have for their inconsistent behavior? (Two reasons. First, that God somehow does not see what they are doing. Second, that God has forsaken them.)

      1. What is the truth? (It is just the opposite. God does see them, and God is very upset. Instead of forsaking them, He is punishing them in the hope of turning things around.)

      2. Put yourself in the sandals of one of these elders. Does your view of things fit with the facts? (Yes. If you thought that God should defend you no matter what you do, the current crisis could be attributed to God forsaking you.)

      3. If the elders have a reasonable story, why is God so unhappy? (Because they refuse to believe Jeremiah. There are two ways to look at this, and if you look at it through the warnings of Jeremiah, and the instructions in God's written word, the elders should know their view of things is false.)

      4. How about you? When you examine your life, does your self-justification depend in part on ignoring the warnings of the Bible?

  2. Living the Excuse

    1. Read Jeremiah 37:1-2. Do King Zedekiah and his advisors give heed to what God is saying through Jeremiah? (They pay no attention to what God says.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 37:3. Why would he ask for prayers?

      1. Do you know people like this? They pay no attention to what God says to them, and then they ask for prayers when they get in trouble?

        1. Is this good or bad? Should we be relieved that the king finally asks for prayers?

        2. Or, is asking for prayer more self-deception?

    3. Read Jeremiah 37:5-8. On what was Zedekiah depending? (He thought Egypt would save him. His plan seemed to be working. When Egypt marched, Babylon withdrew from its siege of Judah.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 37:9-10. Let's revisit the question about praying to God when you have been ignoring Him. Did God respond to the prayer request of Zedekiah? (Yes! I think prayer is always the right answer. But, notice that God does not change. He still has the same message that Zedekiah has been rejecting.)

  3. Turn For the Worse

    1. Read Jeremiah 38:2-3. This is Jeremiah's consistent message - give up and stop resisting the Babylonians. How would you like his message if you were a leader of Judah?

    2. Read Jeremiah 38:4. I suspect you were thinking the same thing. Jeremiah is not encouraging the soldiers and he is not boosting the morale of the people. What do you think Jeremiah should be doing?

      1. Is there a lesson in this for us when it comes to counseling those who refuse to turn from evil? (If we are sure we have God's message, then we need to stick to the truth. Jeremiah was not sharing a "welcoming" message, what he was saying was destructive to the leaders' plans to resist God.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 38:6. How would you like to be stuck in the mud at the bottom of a well? (It would be terrible.)

      1. Should we expect to be "in the mud" when we speak out against evil? (If you read Jeremiah 38:7-13 you will see that God inspires a leader, Ebed-Melek, to intervene to save Jeremiah from starving to death at the bottom of the well.)

  4. Last Chance

    1. Read Jeremiah 38:14-15. What do you think about King Zedekiah's request? Is Jeremiah's response reasonable? (The King is clearly conflicted on whether he should listen to Jeremiah.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 38:16. Why did the king "secretly" swear this oath to Jeremiah?

    3. Read Jeremiah 38:17-18. What does this teach us about God? (He is long-suffering. He still gives Zedekiah a way out. He still holds out hope.)

  5. Time Over

    1. Read Jeremiah 39:1-2 and Jeremiah 39:4-7. Your sons have been killed, and that is the last thing you ever see. Imagine what it is like to be King Zedekiah now?

    2. Read Jeremiah 39:8-9. All is lost. Jerusalem has been burned and the people are taken captive. How has trusting in idols and Egypt worked out for the people of Judah?

      1. Is this a general rule that applies to us, when we put our trust in others and in the things we have made?

    3. Read Jeremiah 39:11-12 and Jeremiah 39:15-18. Recall that Ebed-Melek intervened to save Jeremiah from starving at the bottom of the well. What is the lesson for those who stand up for God when it is not popular? (God looks out for those who serve Him.)

  6. Making the Best of It

    1. Tragedy has come to your life and it is all your fault. What should you do?

      1. Let's read the letter that Jeremiah sends to those taken to Babylon as captives. Read Jeremiah 29:4-6. What is Jeremiah's advice? (Try to live as normal a life as possible. If you have messed up your life, things may never be the same, but you should try to live a normal life.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 29:7-8. What else should you do with regard to those who have brought discipline into your life? (God's people could despise the Babylonians and try to undermine them. But, God says that His people should work with the Babylonians to make life better for all of them.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 29:10-11. What does this mean for most of the people? (That they will die in captivity.)

      1. How is this a message of hope? (Their children will return to Judah.)

      2. How would you apply this lesson to your life if you have done things that have created a disaster? (Put your hope in helping to make a better life for your children. Try to make things as normal as you can now, so that the future will be better.)

    4. Friend, humans have an incredible ability to deceive themselves. Ask God to show you the true nature of your heart. If it is too late, and you have already created a mess of your life, turn to God, try to make life as normal as possible, and work to make a better life for your children. Will you commit to that?

  7. Next week: The Covenant.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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