The End of Jeremiah’s Ministry (Jeremiah 52:31 – 34; 2 Kings 25:27 – 30)

Scripture Text:

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Jeremiah 52:31 – 34

A minor historical footnote brings to close the record of Jeremiah’s ministry. After a reign of some 45 years, Nebuchadnezzar is succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk in Babylonian). Remember Jehoiachin had been taken captive 37 years earlier in the great deportation of 597 BC. 

Whether Jeremiah is still alive at this time is unknown. His last prophetic utterance took place in 586 BC (after he had been taken to Egypt by a renegade band of his own people). At that time his ministry had spanned more than 40 years, and it had been about 25 years since then. In any event, the record of Jehoiachin’s release is probably added to Jeremiah’s prophecies by is faithful scribe, Baruch.

Although there will be other prophets and prophecies to come, the era of the great written prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel now comes to a close. It’s appropriate that we’ve reached this point at the close of the year. Next week (in the new year), we will begin our study of Job and the problem of suffering. Undoubtedly, the book of Job will be our focus for the year 2017.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream Is Interpreted and Fulfilled (Daniel 4:19 – 37)

Scripture Text:

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Daniel 4:19 – 37

1. What tactful way have you found to break bad news to someone?

2. How would you like to receive news: Bad news first? Good news last?

3. Share a time when you delayed doing something urgent or needful only to regret it. What were the results? How did you feel?

4. How does Daniel break his bad news tactfully? What does he do and say at the outset (verse 19) and at the end (verse 27) which would increase the likelihood that Nebuchadnezzar would listen? What hope does he hold out for the king?

5. Daniel’s use of “Heaven” (verse 26) is the first and only time the word is inserted for God in the Old Testament. What does it imply: Reverence for God’s name? Deference to the king’s polytheistic beliefs? Or what?

6. The Aramaic word for righteous or “what is right” (verse 27) links human responsibility to both God and neighbor. Why does Daniel stress both? (How is “being kind to the oppressed” a witness to God?)

7. How does his interpretation of the king’s dream relate to issues of pride, arrogance and humility?

8. Has “all this happened” to the king by chance? By decree? By default? What clue does “twelve months later” provide?

9. How is the voice from heaven shown to be powerful (verses 31 – 33)? How does the immediacy and power of God’s word relate to Genesis chapter 1?

10. With his sanity restored, what does the king conclude about “the Most High”? How does his testimony strike you?

  • sincerely penitent?
  • coaxed or coached by Daniel?
  • sanely rational?
  • miraculous turn-about?

11. How do you account for the king’s restored greatness and prosperity?

  • humility pays?
  • Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled?
  • God has a sense of humor?
  • the king’s dream of a tree and stump comes true?
  • other?

12. How have you shown courage in declaring God’s word to others, both the good and bad news?

13. What “stump” signals for you what God still wants to do? How might that be fully restored by “Heaven’s rule”?

14. At this time Babylon (with its hanging gardens) is a “great” nation. Why does such success make change or repentance difficult? How does this relate to Jesus’ word about the rich entering the kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:24)?

How long Nebuchadnezzar’s mental illness lasted is not clear from the phrase “seven times”. What is clear is that it was long enough to confront the king with his sinful state and his need for a redeeming God. As we saw in the preceding post, Nebuchadnezzar’s expressed reason for revealing the embarrassing incident is to bring honor to a God powerful enough to so humble a world leader, yet gracious enough to restore him to his throne. And his conversion seems to be sincere. What a happy ending to the life of one who has spent years oppressing God’s chosen nation (people) and decimating Jerusalem!

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Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Tree (Daniel 4:1 – 18)

Scripture Text:

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Daniel 4:1 – 18

I trust everyone has been blessed by the hope, grace, and love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – regardless of your life circumstances – during this holiday season. King Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary insanity is where we will end 2016.

In what appears to be the last two or three years of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia apparently becomes a true believer in the powerful God of his servant Daniel. The process of belief has been a long one, developing over some 40 years. The king was first awed by Daniel’s God when Daniel was given the ability to tell the king his dreams and interpret their meaning. He was further amazed when this God of the Hebrews save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace. Polytheistic in his beliefs, he has yet to confront the singular, exclusive power of God on a personal basis . . .

1. Remember the school or team braggart? How did you feel about being around such braggarts? How do you feel when people brag about you and yours?

2. What have you dreamed or daydreamed about your future? Were your dreams exciting? Ho hum? Morbid? What dreams have come true?

3. What position regarding “all the world” and the “Most High God” is Nebuchadnezzar assuming (verses 1 – 3)? If people do “prosper greatly”, who would like to take credit? What does that say about this king?

4. How does the king’s handling of this dream (verses 4 – 9) differ from his handling of the earlier one (chapter 2:1 – 3)? How and why does he flatter Daniel this time?

5. How does the tree seem to fit the king (verses 10 – 12): In size? Appearance? Visibility? In ability to prosper others? In comparison to the gold statue in chapter 3? How would you interpret the tree if you were Nebuchadnezzar? If you were Daniel?

6. Where does the messenger fit into the dream of the tree? What hope is conveyed by letting the stump remain (verses 15 and 26)?

7. How does the king being “given the mind of an animal” (verse 16) relate to God’s message in verse 17? Power? Pride? Humility?

8. Are God’s plans set in concrete or are they somewhat contingent upon our actions? What are the implications of verse 27 in this regard?

9. How can you appreciate your accomplishments without bragging or putting yourself down? Whom do you credit for your prosperity?

10. What “tree” of yours has been cut down to size? To what do you attribute that?

11. How has God changed your mind regarding His authority or power?

12. How do you feel about God speaking via dreams in the past? How about now?

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