Jeremiah 23

Jeremiah began his ministry at a time of peace and tranquility. King Josiah was a righteous man and led the southern Kingdom of Judah into obedience to God. But, this period of goodness and morality was only temporary, and Jeremiah was sent to warn the people of Judah and the remnants of the Northern Kingdom, that God’s judgment was coming.

God had already judged the Northern Kingdom of Israel, sending her into captivity because of the sins that they had committed. Unfortunately, Judah and the remnants of the other tribes living in the Southern Kingdom were only LESS sinful than those of the Northern Kingdom. But, a series of good and righteous kings have helped to hold God’s judgment from coming upon them. But, this stay of execution was only temporary, and Jeremiah was sent to warn those who were righteous to prepare for the terrible days that were coming.

Jeremiah was also sent to call the unrighteous to repentance. But, very few would heed his call to faith, sanctification and obedience. This led to tremendous grief for poor Jeremiah and his eventual writing of the Book of Lamentations, one of the most anguished books of the Bible.

Unfortunately, our own time of lamentation is coming, because we also have many faithless and disobedient Christians among us. God’s judgment will come for our churches, just as it came for the two kingdoms of Israel. But, that’s a story for another time.

Jeremiah 23

There are three sections to this chapter:

  • Criticism of the current leadership and the foretelling of better leaders for the people of Israel, along with the coming of Messiah.
  • Crying out against the false prophets who speak deceit and false prophesies.
  • The judgment of God for the sins of those who claim to be righteous, while being full of evil.

We aren’t going to go through every verse in this chapter, since much of it pertains to what was happening at the time of Jeremiah. Right now, we are only interested in those parts that specifically point to the return of Jacob to God.

3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.

This sounds like Ezekiel 36, but with far less detail. And, these two verses do not make the distinction between the spiritual condition of the children of Jacob as they enter the Land of Israel. Ezekiel tells us that Jacob enters the Land in an unsaved and unclean condition. And then, God changes them.

Then, Jeremiah reverts to poetry to speak of Messiah:

5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

It should be clear to anyone with eyes to see that the first part of this verse is speaking of Jesus. We know that Jesus is of the lineage of King David, and is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel.

Unfortunately, both the KJV and NKJV have incorrectly translated tsemach (צמח) into Branch. It doesn’t mean that. It means plant or maybe sprout. If you want to get a nice plant for your desk, you go and buy a tesmach (ch as in Bach). A branch is an anaph (ענף). And, all the main translations of the Bible make this mistake, except for the Young’s Literal Translation and two Chinese versions of the Bible: The Chinese Union Version and the Chinese New Version.

I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for these blatant mistakes. I think that we all should be angry with the translators for either deliberately inserting errors into the Bible, or for being incompetent and lazy in their translation. It is a vile thing to distort the Words of God, and yes… the KJV is full of such distortions.

And, it should embarrass every English speaking Christian that the Chinese have a better translation of the Bible. I am absolutely disgusted at our translators. (A big thanks to Mrs. Little for helping us see the accuracy of the Chinese Bible!)

But, let’s get back to the verse.

A strange thing happens in the second half of verse five. It says that Jesus will reign, prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. And no, that has NOT happened yet. Not even close. So, that’s a verse with more than two thousand years between beginning and end.

Then, the puzzle deepens over this next verse:

6 In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

That hasn’t happened yet. In fact, when we look at verses five and six together, it sounds like this is the Millennium. But, if you draw on the other verses of the Bible that speak of The Millennium, it sounds like these two verses are combining The Last Days with The Millennium.

It should be clear that the gathering happens in the Last Days, and the reign of Jesus happens in the Millennium. And, the next two verses speak of this ingathering:

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ 8 but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”

This has already happened – at least for most of the children of Jacob that we know of. There are still a lot of Jews still living in the US, and a few Jews still live in Europe. The Jews of Asia and Africa have all been driven out, except for tiny, tiny pockets, here and there.

Is this ingathering finished?

I don’t know. There may be more to come as antisemitism rises in North America and Europe. And, the next economic collapse might spur more immigration to Israel.

Those six verses – three through eight – are almost all that we are interested in, in this chapter. The rest of this chapter describes the spiritual condition of the Kingdom of Judah, which is horrifyingly bad, and a lot like the condition our churches, today.

But, there is one more verse that is interesting:

20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.

The word for ‘latter’ is achareet (אחרית) and also means ‘end’, although, ‘latter’ is a good translation. So, what we are talking about is the Last Days, and the fact that the people of Israel will understand all that has happened to them. And, when God says, through Jeremiah, that Israel will ‘understand it perfectly’, I believe that this points to a perfect and spiritual understanding that can only come through salvation in Christ.

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