Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A time to say No

Read Jeremiah 35.

There are times when we are to say "no" to somethings in order to say "yes" to something far better.

The first principle of wisdom in the book of Proverbs is to fear the LORD (Proverbs 1:7).  That is just the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom; the starting line.  The second principle of wisdom is to listen to the instruction of one's parents (Proverbs 1:8).  That should sustain a person through life.  Unfortunately, the people of Judah showed no signs of wisdom.  They chose to ignore God and the instructions of their fathers.

To illustrate that message, God told Jeremiah to invite the family of Rechab to the Temple for a meeting.  There they were offered wine to drink, but they refused.  With clarity, the Rechabites reviewed some family commitments about their lifestyle.  They would not break those commitments even for the prophet.

It was a test and the family passed.  God wanted to use their demonstration of obedience to their father's word as a contrast to Judah's disobedience of His word.  "...they have obeyed their father's command, I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me." (v.14b)   Then, God pronounced judgment on Judah, but rewarded the family of Rechab.

Obedience is not optional.  Faithfulness to our commitments to God is required.  There is loss and reward at stake.  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

God does not Forget

Read Jeremiah 34.

As the Babylonian siege was taking place, God had a word for King Zedekiah.  Though the king would try to escape (v.3), he would be captured and taken to Babylon.  There, he would be treated respectfully and die peacefully.

The captivity lasted 70 years because the Jews had failed to observe the Sabbath rest of the land every seventh year.  So, God collected on what the people refused to give Him.  During the siege another evidence of sinful disobedience arose.  If a fellow Hebrew went into debt to another and became their slave, it was only to last six years.  In the seventh year, the debt was to be forgiven and the enslaved Hebrew set free (Deuteronomy 15:12-18).  This command from God had been ignored also.

Quickly, the citizens of Jerusalem gathered at the Temple and made a formal covenant with God to set their Hebrew slaves free.  This involved dividing a calf in two and walking between the pieces.  It was a serious promise.  The animal in essence served as a symbol of their vow.  They would keep their commitment or die like this animal.  It was not long until the people reneged on their promise and re-enslaved those same fellow citizens.

What happened?

Verse 21 indicates that the Babylonians withdrew from the siege for a time.  History tells us that the Egyptians began an attack and Nebuchadnezzar's army had leave to squelch the distraction.  With the pressure off, the people returned to their sin.  However, the army of Babylon came back (v.22).

Who has not prayed at one time or another, "Lord, if you will get me out of this, I will....."  And, as soon as the pressure is off, people tend to forget what they promised God.  Or, a man and a woman stand before God, family, and witnesses to vow faithfulness "until death" but when a temptation comes along, they quickly forget their promises.  However, God does not forget.  "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”  (Psalm 139:4)

The fact that God does not forget is good for us.
1. It holds us accountable to fulfill our promises.
2. It proves that God is ever faithful to keep His promises to us.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Monday, July 15, 2019

4 promises of good News

Read Jeremiah 33.

With all the bad news regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the people who would die, the LORD now gave Jeremiah a clearer vision of hope.  His offer to Jeremiah in verse 3 was "just ask Me."

God made four direct promises concerning the future of His people.
1. "I will bring it to health and healing." (v.6)
The city experienced judgments of war, famine and disease.  But there will come a day when Jerusalem and this land will be a place of "prosperity and security."

2. "I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel." (v.7)
During the invasion and the siege, houses and buildings were destroyed.  But there will come a day when the nation will be one and all will be rebuilt.

3. "I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin." (v.8)
It was their rebellion against God, choosing to live the way they wanted, and worshiping other things that caused this judgment.  But there will come a day of forgiveness when the people will turn back to the LORD.  Then, He "will have mercy on them" (v.26b)

Some restoration took place in the resettlement of the land at the end of the 70-year captivity.  However, the ultimate result promised by God will be something the world has yet to see.  Jerusalem will be a "joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth" (v.9).

Why?  Because of all the good things God has done for the Jews.

When will this happen?  That future time is marked by the prophetic phrases in verses 14 and 15, "Behold, the days are coming..." and "in those days..."

4. "I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David." (v.15)
As a direct descendant in the royal lineage of David (Matthew 1:1), King Jesus will reign in Jerusalem.

What will characterize Messiah's rule?  "He will execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely." (v.16)

Need some good news?  God has so much more to reveal to us about Himself and His plans.  They are written down in His word.  A heart that is open to Him will respond to His offer: "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things you have not known." (v.3)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

How difficult is your Circumstance?

Read Jeremiah 32.

Who buys real estate when the nation is about to be completely taken over by a foreign power?  But that is exactly what God asked Jeremiah to do.

The prophet was imprisoned for speaking the truth of God's word.  King Zedekiah only wanted to hear happy-talk about success.  He considered the message from the LORD to be equivalent to treason.  Never mind the Babylonian army had Jerusalem under full siege at the time.  Jeremiah was confused about the request God made of him to purchase land.  Yet, he was fully obedient, even though it made no sense.  He asked his assistant, Baruch, to put away the deed so that years later there would proof of ownership.

This bewilderment prompted his prayer.  In it he acknowledged that the LORD created all things and, therefore, is free to do as He wishes.  Since God has that kind of power, "nothing is too hard for you" (v.17).  He continued by acknowledging God's love and His justice.  It is at the end, in verse 25, where he expressed his confusion as to what God was doing and why.

The LORD responded by saying that now His judgment would fall on Judah.  The purchase of the land was to be a sign of hope.  God will bring all the Jews back to the land.  With the impending loss of everything, restoration seemed to be an impossible happening, except it was God who said it.  In the third portion of the chapter, the LORD continued to lay out His plan for Israel's future.

Most people believe in a god that is too small to help them.  The God of the Bible is uniquely all-powerful.  If God can call into existence the heavens and earth out of nothing, if He can raise one nation and put down another in His own timing, what can God do in our daily circumstances of life?  The LORD challenged Jeremiah’s faith, "Is anything too hard for me?" (v.27)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

God's new promise is available Now

Read Jeremiah 31.

There are several metaphors used to describe God's the relationship with His people.
1. As a Father (v.9)
He disciplined them because of their disobedience.  But like a faithful parent, He did this in order to better prepare them as a nation for their future.  Nothing would change the fact of His commitment to them.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (v.3)
"There is hope for your future." (v.17)

2. As a Shepherd (v.10)
Because they belonged to Him, God promised to gather them as His flock.  He will care for them, feed them and protect them.

3. As a Redeemer
His deliverance of them from the hands of the enemy is compared to paying a ransom.  The basis of the turn in their experience with God depended upon their repentance.  With grief and shame, their hearts cried out for God's mercy and forgiveness. (vv.18-20)  He would restore them to their land and bless them.

But there is much more ahead for Israel.  Three times we read, "Behold, the days are coming."  Here, God makes a future promise of a new covenant with Israel.  The results of this covenant for the Jews in verses 33-34 will be:
-God's law will be within them, on their hearts.
-They will all know the LORD.
-Their sins will be forgiven and remembered no more.
This obviously is a prophecy that remains unfulfilled in Israel.  However, as "the time of the Gentiles" came and were grafted into God's plan of redemption, all may enjoy the benefits of the new covenant (Romans 9-11).

At His last supper with His disciples, Jesus took the cup and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."  Forgiveness of sin is available to all who turn to Him for mercy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

6 evidences of unfulfilled Prophecy

Read Jeremiah 30.

God revealed His plans and told Jeremiah to write down the words for future generations to read and to know.

The prophecy certainly includes the return from the captivity in Babylon, but a careful reading reveals much more.  There is an inclusion of the "incurable" wound (v.12) that prompted the exile and then the restoration to health and healing (v.16).  There is mention of a restoration to the land and then the final phrase of the chapter which reads, "In the latter days you will understand this."  Both are true.  Look at the evidences of unfulfilled prophecy here.

1. The prophecy includes both Israel and Judah.  (v.3)
The northern kingdom of Israel had been scattered by the Assyrians and were not a part of the Babylonian captivity.  This looks forward to a united kingdom of Israel.

2. There is mention of a coming "time of distress for Jacob." (v.5-7)
That day will be unprecedented.  The ultimate descriptions fit into the other mentions in the Bible regarding the Great Tribulation.

3. They shall not only serve God in that day but also "David their king." (v.9)
No king has reigned over a united kingdom of Israel since the death of Solomon.  The Messiah will one day sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem as "King of kings and Lord of lords".

4. It will be a time of God's judgment against all nations. (v.11)
Yes, Assyria fell.  Then, Babylonia fell.  But there is a future day coming when Jesus will rule all nations "with a rod of iron." (Revelation 19:15)

5. The king's palace shall be rebuilt. (v.18)
The Temple was rebuilt a couple of times in history and will be built once more.  However, this is a reference to the palace for a king to reign over the nation.

6. The kingdom of Israel will be the people of God. (22)
Under Messiah's rule, all Israel will be saved and serve the LORD.  (Romans 11:26-27)

The good news is that those of us who have committed our lives to Jesus will rule and reign with Him.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Bloom where you are Planted

Read Jeremiah 29.

This is a fascinating and encouraging letter from Jeremiah to those who had been taken in exile to Babylon.  First, the false prophets had preached that this would not happen at all.  Next, the false prophets changed their message and began saying that it was temporary and would only last two years.  But all along God had spoken through Jeremiah that this would be a 70-year exile; one year for each of the Sabbath years they had failed to obey.

Those living Babylon needed to hear again that they would be there for the rest of their lives.  They were encouraged to settle into their new home, but not be assimilated into Babylonian culture.  In Psalm 137:4, they were discouraged and asked, "How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?"  They had lost everything.  What were they supposed to do now?

Here is God's encouragement to them.  I believe the same encouragement is ours as believers today.  1 Peter 2:11 refers to believers in Jesus as "sojourners and exiles" who live on earth, waiting for the joy of our final home.
1. "Multiply there." (v.6b)
They needed to recognize that though this was temporary as a people, for now it was home.  They were to carry on life as they would have done in Judah; marry, raise a family and celebrate these things.

2. "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you." (v.7a)
They were not there by accident.  God put them in that city for a purpose.  They were on a mission.  Here were the people who claimed to know the one true God, living in a pagan culture.  They were to demonstrate the difference the LORD made in their lives.  It was to be shown by their good works and how they behaved.  Of all people, they were to be the best of citizens.

The Apostle Peter wrote a similar encouragement to Christians living in the Roman Empire.  "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." (1 Peter 2:13-15)

3. "Pray to the LORD on its behalf." (v.7b)
Rather than living in rebellion and speaking badly about the pagan culture, these exiles were to pray for their city.  How many Christians even know the names of their city leaders, let alone pray for them?

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

4. In the plan of God, this was temporary. (v.11)
He had "a future and a hope" in store for them.  In 70 years, the LORD would return them to their land and restore their nation.  Our hope today is not in this temporary life.  "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)