Monday, September 29, 2014

Got Water?

Read Jeremiah 17.

A sure sign of life is health and growth.  Sin will destroy both in one's spiritual life.  Those who place their faith in man-made schemes, instead of exclusively trusting God, will pay a severe price.

In verse 6, Judah's spiritual condition is compared to a shrub in the desert.  With no sustenance, the shrub produces nothing of any value.  The plant is pictured as being alone in salty soil that actually kills life.

The opposite is true of those trust in the LORD (vv.7-8).  They stand like a tree, not a shrub.  They have been planted where the roots are well watered and the environment does not affect its vitality.  In verse 13, the LORD is called "the fountain of living water."

This chapter serves as a bridge passage between Psalm 1 and John 4.
Psalm 1:3 describes the one who constantly delights in God's word as "a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers."

Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in John 4:10, 13-14 and said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."  "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Got water?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Faith in the day of Trouble

Jeremiah 16.

As we have seen before, God occasionally ordered the prophets to act out His message or use visuals for the purpose of gaining attention.  The punishment upon the nation was coming.  The LORD had Jeremiah withhold three natural and normal actions in support of what God was saying.

He was not to marry and have a family.  Why?  Because soon families would being killed by the invaders or die in the famine.  He was not to attend funerals.  Why?  Because soon there would be so many dead that no one would left to bury them.  He was not to attend parties.  Why?  Because soon there would be nothing to celebrate.

The people brought this on themselves.  They did not learn from the mistakes of their ancestors.  Instead, they rebelled against God's lordship of their lives even more.  "Every one of you follows his stubborn evil will, refusing to listen to me." (v.12)

Losing their land was to be temporary.  Just as their fathers always looked back to the Exodus out of Egypt as a benchmark of God restoring the Jews to the land, there would be a new benchmark.  A future generation will return from this Babylonian Captivity (north country, v.15).  Even more, there will come a day when a world-wide return will take place.  At that time, under the rule of Messiah, the nation will be taught, see firsthand the power of God, and know exactly who God is (v.21).  That is their future hope.

In the meantime, Jeremiah remained faithful.  So, what was he to do as his nation faced such certain doom?  What can we do when our personal world appears to be crumbling around us?  Note the three things about the LORD in verse 19 that the prophet held on to and that sustained him "in the day of trouble."
1. "My strength."
Like a personal security force of bodyguards, the God of heaven would take care of him.  He would keep going, not in his own power but God's.
2. "My fortress."
Like having a personal fortified area of defense where the enemy could not break through, God would keep him safe.
3. "My refuge."
Like a personal retreat, God was his place to run when he felt threatened.

Don't miss that each one begins with "my."  This was not just sound theology or good religious teaching.  This was his personal faith and commitment to the LORD.  That is what makes the difference.

Friday, September 26, 2014

When it is time to stand Alone

Read Jeremiah 15.

Though repeatedly warned over long period of time, Judah refused to turn back to God.  Their sins had overtaken them, but at the root was "you have rejected me, declares the LORD; you keep going backward." (v.6)  Judgment was now sure.  It would come in different forms: pestilence, sword, famine, captivity.  Everyone in the nation would suffer one of those four punishments.

Even the relatively few who remained faithful to the LORD would experience extreme adversity.  Jeremiah stayed true in delivering messages given to him directly from God.  Yet, he too was rejected as one who caused conflict (v.10).  He did nothing wrong.  He did what was right and suffered for it.  Feeling alone in his stand against the wickedness of his nation, he prayed.  Then, God responded to him.

The testimony of one who stands alone. (vv.15-18)
Note the principles of his willingness be true to the LORD against all odds.
1. "For your sake I bear reproach"
The rejection and suffering he experienced was not due to anything he had done.  He faithfully fulfilled all that the LORD told him to do.  Truly, it was the result of their rejection of God.  It was God's message to God's people and their rejection was against God.  But, he felt it.
2. "Your words were found and I ate them."
He just did not read or speak about the word of God.  He took it in and digested it.  God's word was the joy and delight of his life and sustained him in the midst of all the stress he faced.
3. "I did not sit in the company of revelers."
He had no time for those who mocked, laughed at, and dismissed what God had to say.  Jeremiah did not associate with such people.
4. "I sat alone."
Because Judah had become a nation of mockers against God, Jeremiah found himself isolated.  Like Elijah, he was not the only one in the country who remained faithful, but it felt like it.  It was a lonely time.  Loneliness will often be the price of standing true to the LORD.
5. "My pain is unceasing."
It hurt.  He felt as though he was dying from some incurable disease that had taken over his body.  As one who looked for water in a dry brook bed, so he looked to God to refresh his spirit.

The  promises of God. (vv.19-21)
1. "You shall stand before me."
Like He dealt tersely with Elijah for feeling sorry for himself, God exhorted Jeremiah to get back on track.  God had called him.  He would take care of him.  "Get up and take your stand."
2. "You shall be as my mouth."
The sign of a godly person is that they know God's word and speak God's truth.  His word has eternal value and has the power to change lives.
3. "You shall not turn to them."
Standing alone means to not giving in to the pressure to conform to a sinful culture.  If the people were to turn to God, he must remain unmovable in representing the LORD.  If he gave in and joined the people in their sin, all ministry would be forfeited.
4. You will be like a bronze wall.
It was not in Jeremiah to withstand this spiritual opposition.  God said, "I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze."  Humans are no match for spiritual warfare.  When one takes a stand for the LORD, His powerful resources will be seen.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10)

Psalm 1:1-2-"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

4 signs you have a malpracticing Preacher

Read Jeremiah 14.

The severe drought was taking its toll on Judah.  No rain meant no water.  No water meant a scarcity of food.  God had warned the nation in Leviticus 26:18-20, for example, that His blessings would be withheld if they chose to ignore His word.  The people prayed, but God did not answer.  They made a pretense of confessing their sin (v.7), but the LORD knew their hearts were still clinging to idols.  Going through the routines and rituals of worship without an exclusive allegiance to the LORD would prove to be totally ineffective (v.12).

Plenty of prophets were in the land.  Why were the people unprepared?  Where was the true repentance of sin and revival of sincere hearts?  What was the problem?  The answer is that many of the preachers were false prophets and many of the priests were false priests.  What characterized them as being false?  God identified 4 things about them in verse 14.

1. "I did not send them."
These men held a religious position but it had nothing to do with God.  They pretended to represent God but He had not called them to do such a thing.  More importantly, God had not spoken to them.  In those days, the prophet received direct messages from the LORD as to what He wanted preached.  Truly, then, they had nothing to say.  But they spoke regularly anyway.

2. "They are prophesying...a lying vision."
In the Old Testament the vision of the prophet was referring to the word of God.  These false prophets stood to speak but they had not heard or seen anything from the LORD.  Their content was made up.  What they said to the people was not true.  In fact, it contradicted what they LORD had already revealed and what genuine prophets, like Jeremiah, were saying.

3. "They are prophesying...worthless divination."
Because their messages were lies, their insights and so-called determinations about God, spiritual life, and life in general had absolutely no real value for the people.

4. "They are prophesying...the deceit of their own minds."
The Hebrew word for "deceit" is fraud.  It was malpractice.  Those they pretended to minister to were harmed instead of helped.  It was their thinking versus what God said.  It was what the people wanted to hear versus the truth.  They missed the singular key ingredient for serving God and enjoying His blessings.  "For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land and have no knowledge." (v.18b)

Let's hold each other accountable for knowing, speaking, and living the truth of God's word.  Anything less is a fraud.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

God's attempts to get Attention

Read Jeremiah 13.

Many times God instructed one of the prophets to do something unusual.  These served as visual aids to gain attention and gather a curious crowd who would listen to the message.  In this chapter, Jeremiah has two such assignments.

1. The Linen Belt (vv.1-11)
The LORD told Jeremiah to wear a linen belt.  This would have been what the priests wore in that day.  After sometime, God told him to bury the belt.  Then later, He told Jeremiah to dig up the belt and take a good look.  The belt, of course, was dirty, falling apart, and no longer of any use.  It was an illustration for God's message to Judah.  He chose them and had them close to Himself for a time.  But the people had buried themselves in the surrounding pagan culture.  They refused to listen to the word of God and live for Him.  Spiritually, they were dirty, falling apart, and no longer could they be used by God.

2. The Wine Jars (vv.12-14)
The message began with the statement to fill every jar with wine.  Immediately, the people derisively questioned the instruction.  It was a picture of Judah's spiritual condition.  Their intoxication with false teaching and pagan practices caused them to reel here and there through life with a loss of direction and sense.  As a result, God's judgment would smash their wrong beliefs and the nation like broken jars.

The judgment will come with Judah being taken captive (v.17) and forced into exile (v.19) by a an invader from the north (v.20).

Four times Jeremiah exposed the root problem as that of pride (vv.9, 15, 17).  He called for them to humble themselves and give God His rightful glory before it would be too late.  Specifically, he targeted the nation's leaders to come down off their thrones and "take a lowly seat" (v.18).

God loves it when we humble ourselves in worship and cast our dependence upon Him.  It is the very thing that triggers His grace to us.  "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The preacher complains to God

Read Jeremiah 12.

If you have ever complained to God, you are in good company.  So did Jeremiah.  His attitude was not one of rebellion but bewilderment.  He knew God was right and the prophet wanted to understand what God was doing.

In the previous chapter, the LORD warned Jeremiah of a plot against his life.  Part of Jeremiah's confusion had to do with the prosperity of those who opposed God's message and who desired to kill the messenger.  In addition to their apparent wealth, there was a huge lack of spiritual integrity with the opposition.  It seemed that God had blessed them, yet "you are near in their mouth and far from their heart." (v.2)  Why was God allowing this?

The response from God challenged the prophet.  In essence He asked in verse 5, "If you cannot take this pressure, what will you do when things get worse?"  And, they will.  Some of Jeremiah's enemies were among his own family (v.6).  God, then announced in no uncertain terms that He would "abandon" Judah and allow other nations to destroy the land (vv.7-13).

Many have used such passages to declare that God is through with the Jews and spiritualize all subsequent references in the Bible to the contrary.  If one continues reading, however, the abandonment is not forever.  This immediate punishment will last for 70 years at the hands of the Babylonian Empire.  Ultimately, in the Millennial Kingdom, Israel and the nations will experience a complete restoration.

"I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land." (v.15)  However, there is a qualifier.  "But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."

We are living in between these two major events: the Babylonian captivity and the coming earthly reign of Christ.  But now every individual is being held accountable for listening to God and responding with genuine faith.  "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The potential consequences of unconfessed Sin

Read Jeremiah 11.

"Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them." (v.11b)  "Therefore, do not pray for this people." (v.14)

The nation had become so spiritually corrupt that they had reached a point where prayer to God would not delay the judgment against them.  Their root sin was turning to other things for life-guidance instead of solely depending on the LORD.  God gave them plenty of warning, "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart." (v.8)

Not only did they reject the message, they wanted to kill the messenger (v.21).  This is the first mention  of the increasing personal threat against Jeremiah for faithfully delivering the word of God.  The LORD's response was to bring death to the conspirators (vv.22-23).

Such a sinful condition should strike terror in disobedient hearts.  Hebrews 10:31 is a reminder to all, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  Sin is nothing with which to play.  The Apostle John wrote: "There is a sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that." (1 John 5:16b)

The prime example in the New Testament where a line was crossed with God and His judgment came quickly upon them is Ananias and Sapphira.  They lied to the church in Acts 5 and the LORD killed both of them.  In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote of Hymenaeus and Alexander, two men in the church who were committed to false doctrine.  "I have handed them over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:20)

We should all be warned to keep soft hearts for God and to be immediately responsive to His prompting.  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reasons religion is Worthless

Read Jeremiah 10.

The people of Judah were religious.  It is natural for all people to place their trust in some sort of belief system that explains to their satisfaction how we got here, what life is all about, and what happens when we die.

Some have chosen to believe in themselves.  This is not only fails all logic in attempting to answer the three issues above, but the very statement is full of selfish pride.  Jeremiah got it right when he said, "I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps." (v.23)  Our own self-help efforts will always prove to be inadequate.

Most have chosen to place their faith something they or others concocted.  Jeremiah's message from God in this chapter takes on the silliness of man-made religion.  Craftsmen cut down a tree, shaped the wood, covered it with  gold, and then irrationally ascribed supernatural power to it.  They chose to believe in what they made rather than the God who created all things (vv.12-16).  God said, "They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood!" (v.8)  "They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish." (v.15)

In the personal search for meaning in life, not all believe in the same God.  The God of the Bible is unique in both Who He is and His claims upon every individual.  Simply consider the statements in verse 10.
1. "He is the true God."
If this claim is correct, all other beliefs and so-called gods are false.  A mix of the truth and falsehood is nothing more than a lie.  He alone is God.  There is no one else.

2. "He is the living God."
Unlike the idols and the religions based upon the sayings of dead philosophers, the God of the Bible speaks, hears, sees, and acts.  He loves, forgives, rewards, blesses, judges, and punishes evil.  He is not distant to our needs but up close and personal.

3. "He is the everlasting King."
Or, King of Eternity.  The Apostle Paul wrote concerning God, the Son, in 1 Timothy 6:16-16, "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality..."  Only He can address how we got here, what life is all about, and what happens when we die because He is the only authoritative source.  He was there in eternity past and the original Cause.  He is present with us now fulfilling His plans.  He will be in full control for all eternity future.

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).  This is not belief in a system but a person.  This is not a religion but a relationship.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our nation is in trouble. What is the answer?

Read Jeremiah 9.

With the intensity building of God's pending judgment, the preacher shared his personal feelings.
-Jeremiah wanted to cry.  This is why he is often called the weeping prophet.  Not only that, he called the women of the nation to mourn with him (vv.17-21).
-Jeremiah wanted to run.  If only there was some desolate place for him to escape and to get away from all this mess.

But if he did not stand under the pressure, if he did not speak the truth and urge others to seek God, if he did not live for God in an ungodly culture, he would have missed the very reason the LORD put him there.

The message was not his, but God's.  The nation was not his, but God's.  The problem was not rejection of him, but God.  The people chose to believe "falsehood and not truth" and, therefore, "they do not know me, declares the LORD." (v.3)  The people chose to live deceitful and sinful lives and, therefore, "they refuse to know me, declares the LORD." (vv.4-8)

How can a nation or individual, not only survive, but enjoy the blessings of God? (v.23-24)
1. Some trust themselves and their leaders to make wise decisions.
"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom."  It does not require a political scientist to figure out that there are no human solutions to the world's problems and pressures.  None of us are wise enough on our own to even lead ourselves, let alone others.

2. Some trust in their personal ability or the power of their nation.
"Let not the mighty man boast in his might."  No one is truly independent and no nation can survive merely because of their superior military strength.

3. Some trust in their wealth.
"Let not the rich man boast in his riches."  Money and investments may disappear quickly in a national collapse.  Finances have no value when one is facing death.

So, what is the answer?
"Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

"Blessed is the nation (and persons) whose God is the LORD." (Psalm 33:12)

Monday, September 15, 2014

What is the problem Here?

Read Jeremiah 8.

The first step to a solution is recognizing there is a problem.  Though the prophets of God had consistently delivered warnings, the people refused to admit anything was wrong (v.6).  Having ignored God's word and turning to their own so-called wisdom (vv.7-9), the sin of Judah reached a point beyond repair.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah giving him a preview of what would happen to the nation.  Babylon's army will be loud and so thunderous it will feel like a earthquake.  Cities and people will be destroyed.

God gave them every opportunity to repent and turn to Him.  Solomon wrote, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)  Migratory birds know this (v.7).  Farmers know this to be true.  But with Judah, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended" and with no response they would not be delivered (v.20).

This was so devastatingly sad, that all Jeremiah wanted to do was to sit down and cry (8:21-9:1).  In a desperate prayer he asked the LORD, "Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?"  Gilead is located in the foothills on the east side of the Jordan River.  They were known for their commercial trade of an aromatic gum thought to have a medicinal effect.  Jeremiah called for some medicine and a doctor to come and restore his nation's spiritual health.

In Luke 5:27-32, Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to follow him and Matthew invited Him to dinner.  This prompted the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes to criticize Jesus for eating with sinners.  "And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'"

Like Jeremiah, followers of Jesus weep over those who do not know Him yet.  Before one can experience the forgiveness of their sin and the spiritual healing God offers through Christ, there must be an admission of their need.  Oh, how we pray for the Holy Spirit to help others to see the urgency of their need for Him.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Do you take your worship with You?

Read Jeremiah 7.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the most sacred place in the world.  Inside, the very presence of God filled the Holy of Holies.  Judah felt safe, even invincible, because God was on their side.

At the Temple, the people of Judah showed outward signs of obedience to God.  But, during the week their lifestyles betrayed the faith they said they believed.  They proclaimed, "'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations." (v.10)  They went through the motions but there was no demonstrated life-change.  This lack of spiritual integrity and blatant sin would no longer be tolerated.

God named their sins.  Most all of them had to do with their mistreatment of others.  In addition, they were looking to other gods and making sacrifices to them.  The LORD will not share His position of exclusivity with anyone or anything.

Twice, Shiloh is mentioned.  That was the place where they Ark of the Covenant had been until the Philistines attacked and captured the Ark (1 Samuel 4:10-11).  God's warned Judah that such a thing could happen in Jerusalem.

His call to them in verse 23 is simple:
1. "Obey my voice." 
They had been listening to the voices of false teachers and ungodly leaders.  Do not miss the establishment of this message in verses 1-3.  "The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD...proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD...Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel..."

God has more to say about life than can be learned and implemented in a lifetime.  In our day, it is written down for us.  We have no excuse.  God has spoken on what we are to do and what we are to avoid.  His challenge is for us to listen, learn, and live obediently according to His word.

2. "Walk in all the way that I command you."
Our worship of God should remind us of our spiritual standing and commitment to the LORD.  The time should be inspiring, educational, encouraging and challenging.  But the proof of worship is what happens next.  Some leave their worship in a special place, like Judah did.  True followers take their worship with them and live radically different lives as a result.

3. "That it may be well with you."
This is God's goal in our personal relationship with Him.  He will meet our needs and protect us because we are His.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Does a loving God reject People?

Read Jeremiah 6.

Are there any more sobering words in the universe than "the LORD has rejected them"? (v.30)  Yes.

While the context has to do with Judah experiencing God's punishment with 70 years of captivity, there are words even more devastating.  Jesus foretold of the final judgment when He will say to those who rejected Him, "Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)  "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15)

In His steadfast love and grace, the LORD sent spokesmen to warn the people about their sin.  He offered forgiveness and restoration of themselves and their nation.  In His patience, God waited for them to respond.  "Behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.  Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in." (vv.10b-11)

The false prophets kept preaching, "'Peace, peace', when there is no peace." (v.14)

They could have experienced God's blessings instead.  They had a choice but refused to take it.  "They have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it." (v.19)

What did God want them to do?  They had spiritually lost their way.  The comparison in verse 16 is that of a traveler who took the wrong turn.  Instead of trying to figure it out on your own and making matters worse, just admit you are lost and go back to the place you know is right.  Pride keeps us going in the wrong direction.
1. "Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is."
The Bible was complete by the end of the first century A.D. but it is the only authoritative source of knowing God, receiving forgiveness of sin, and having eternal life.  Indeed, it is good news and the good way.

2. "Walk in it."
When one experiences a personal relationship with the LORD, there is a responsibility to keep learning and living for Him each day.

3. "Find rest for your souls."
The results are beyond compare.  Instead of aimlessly wandering through life, a follower of Jesus lives on purpose.  The storms of life come but "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Friday, September 12, 2014

What will you do when the end Comes?

Read Jeremiah 5.

The people of the city of Jerusalem had become so corrupt that there was not one person "who does justice and seeks truth."  Jeremiah thought that perhaps this was due to ignorance.  The people did not know what God expected.  But he discovered that the same corruption of sin existed among those who knew better.

The LORD reminded them of some of His blessings.  He provided for them and took care of them.  Yet, they used their health and strength to sin.  Even when warned by the prophets of God, they said, "He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us." (v.12)  The false prophets and the priests kept up their messages of encouragement, peace and prosperity.  It was popular preaching.  "My people love to have it so." (v.31a)

God's judgment did come, just as He said.  "As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours."  Some lost their lives.  All lost their homes, possessions, and the nation.  The Babylonians overran them like attacking wild animals (v.6).

The people of Judah were not prepared for what was about to take place.  They thought everything will continue as it has been and become even better in the future.   God's question to them was, "But what will you do when the end comes?" (v.31b)

Just as they were warned and God's temporary judgment fell upon Judah, in the same manner every person must answer God's question about the end of this world and eternal judgment for personal sin.

The return of Christ is an unfulfilled fact.  Judgment is coming upon all the ungodly.  Hell is real; a place of eternal punishment for those who reject God's offer of forgiveness in Jesus.  "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed." (2 Peter 3:10)

For those of us who know the truth, be prepared.  For those who do not know, let us urge them to prepare now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 mistakes that will bring God's Judgment

Read Jeremiah 4.

"Return," the LORD declared to His wayward people.  But they did not.

In advance, Jeremiah saw the consequences for Judah.  The coming events were terrifying.  "Blow the trumpet" of warning.  Sound the alarm.  "Cry aloud."  Why?  Because God's judgment on the nation's sin is about to take place.  "The fierce anger of the LORD" (v.8) will come in the form of an enemy "from the north" (v.6).

God will use the Babylonians to destroy the land and take many of the people away as captives.  The invasion is described as being like a lion charging out of his hiding place to attack his prey (v.7).  They would sweep across the land as quickly and brutally as a scorching hot wind (v.11).  "Chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles" (v.13).  The people of Judah will run for their lives, leaving their cities deserted.

What caused God to drop His protection and allow this to happen?
"Your ways and your deeds have brought this upon you." (v.18)

What did they do exactly to cause this judgment?
1. They refused to remove the "detestable things" from their lives and turn wholeheartedly to God. (v.1)
The people loved their sin more than wanting to live for the LORD.

2. They listened to the wrong people and believed a false message of hope. (vv.9-10).
The prophets of God had been warning them all along and calling the nation to repent.  But false prophets and ungodly leaders spoke only of peace and prosperity.  When the disaster struck, some then would blame God for not telling the truth.  He did tell them the truth.  They did not want to hear it and so they turned to those who had a message they liked better.

3. They learned about evil instead of learning how to live for God.  (v.22)
"For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding.  They are 'wise'--in doing evil!  But how to do good they know not."  Dr. Bill Bright used to say that people are not Gospel hardened.  They are Gospel ignorant.  They have either never heard or never taken the time to know a real relationship with God and discover the truth from His word.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spiritual Adultery

Read Jeremiah 3.

God's people are depicted as a wife and the LORD as the husband.  There was a commitment for life to exclusive love.  But, Judah had not only turned away from God, she gave her spiritual affections to anything and anyone who came along.

Judah continued to act this way without shame.  Meanwhile, regarding the LORD, the people claimed, "My father, you are the friend of my youth..." (v.4).  This is much like those who went to church early in life, perhaps even made a profession of faith, but their living betrays the faith they claim.

So, God withheld His blessings on the land (v.3).  The people seemed to not have made the connection between their sin and what was happening to them.  In addition, they did not pay attention and take to heart what had happened to those around them.  God judged Israel and the northern kingdom fell.  Judah thought they could continue to do whatever they wanted and get away with it.  No one gets away with sin.

Yet, like a grieving husband, the LORD in His great mercy still called to them.  Three times He urged them to "Return."  When a person comes to realize the fathomless love of God and how great His mercy is, they humbly will repent of their wrong-doing and return.

What does God want when the wayward returns?
1. Acknowledge your guilt. (v.13)
First, one must realize they are guilty of violating God's claim upon their lives and confess their sin to Him.

2. Believe that He alone is LORD. (v.23)
Pursuing all other spiritual lovers is a adultery.  God will not share His glory with anyone or anything else.  It must be an exclusive and eternal commitment.

3. Experience the results. (v.22)
God promises, "I will heal your faithlessness."  There is only one cure in the universe for sin.  There is only one source of forgiveness.  Jesus has paid our debt on the cross, once and for all.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Have you Forgotten?

Read Jeremiah 2.

God called Jeremiah in chapter one to be His spokesperson.  Next, He began to give this new prophet the messages to deliver on His behalf.

At the end of Genesis, the descendants of Abraham are still a family.  It is in Exodus that the Jews developed into a nation of people.  Their freedom from slavery is consistently looked back upon as a starting point in their national relationship with the LORD.  What characterized them in those early days?  Israel may have forgotten, but God remembered very well and said so in verses 2-3.
1. Your devotion.
In Hebrew the word is "kindness" and refers to how they responded to God.  He had rescued them from the intolerable bondage of Egypt.  He had demonstrated His power for them time after time.  How could they not be fully devoted to Him?

2. Your love.
They had intense, emotional affection for the LORD.  The comparison is those feelings a bride has for her groom.  She cannot wait to be with the object of her love.

3. Your following me.
Like a couple in love walking everywhere together is how God viewed their early days of relationship.  They willingly followed Him wherever He directed.  He led them through the Red Sea and into a wilderness with no resources.  Yet, He supplied all their needs.
4. Your holiness.
Just as the first part of the harvest was to be treated as sacred and given to the LORD in appreciation, so Israel was set apart to Himself.  They were not to be like everyone else.  They were His people and were to represent Him faithfully to an unbelieving world.

What happened?  That is God's question in this chapter.  The answer is they forgot.  They took Him for granted.  Instead of remembering that He is the Creator, they became evolutionists and believed they originated from other sources (v.17).  They worshiped things of their own invention.  They "went after worthlessness, and became worthless" (v.5b).

In Revelation 2:4, Jesus called out the church at Ephesus for having "abandoned the love you had at first."  It is good for us to intentionally and regularly remember how God delivered us, saved us, forgave us, and how we promised our lives to follow Christ at the beginning.  Every day can be/should be a renewal of our love and devotion to Jesus.

Monday, September 8, 2014

To be used of God

Read Jeremiah 1.

He was born the son of a priest who served the tribe of Benjamin in the kingdom of Judah.  His ministry spanned from 627 B.C to 586 B.C. when Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians.  Though his preaching primarily targeted Judah, his appointment was to the Gentiles also ("nations" v.5).

What do we learn about God and ourselves reading this chapter?
1. God has preconception knowledge about each life. (v.5a)
The LORD is not only aware of us in advance due to His Omniscience, but knows every intimate detail about us.

2. God is the giver of each life. (v.5b)
As Psalm 139 explains, we are not biological accidents.  In the womb, our loving LORD sees and superintends who we are from the very beginning.  Those who use a date of birth for life to begin and for religious purposes are greatly in error.

3. God has plan for each life. (v.5c)
The LORD does not waste His time.  He has a purpose for every individual and their being alive.  With God as the Owner of life and the planner of life, it is only when one aligns themselves with Him that true fulfillment may be realized.

4. God has an appointment for each life. (v.5d)
His plan has specific times and places for it to be carried out.  Things that are alive grow and develop in seasons.  How God chooses to use an individual and the places of their influence most often changes over time.

Jeremiah's response to God's plan for his life is typical.  He expressed his inadequacy.  God reassured him with His promises.  We are God's design, not our own.  It is His plan, not ours.  He is "watching over my word to perform it" (v.11).  Ours is the privilege and honor to be used of God in whatever way He chooses.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thy Kingdom Come

Read Isaiah 66.

In this culmination of the book, there are some recurring themes.
1. God, as Creator, owns all things in heaven and on earth. (vv.1-2)

2. Outward displays of worship are to reflect a humble spirit that trembles at the Word of God. (vv.3-5a)

3. God will put all His enemies to shame and punishment. (vv.5b-6)

4. God will keep every one of His promises to the nation of Israel. (vv.22)

When Messiah appears, as described in Revelation 19:11-21, there will be a decisive and deadly dealing with the enemies of God and Israel.  The Jews will see an immediate new birth of their nation, both literally and spiritually.  With Jesus on the throne in Jerusalem, Israel will be:
1. A place of rejoicing. (vv.10-11)

2. A place of peace. (v.12)

3. A place of comfort. (v.13)

4. A place to see the glory of God. (v.18)

5. A place that sends missionaries with the good news of Jesus to the rest of the world. (v.19)

"Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A contrast of two types of People

Read Isaiah 65.

After a chapter and a half of prayer, asking for God's intervention, He responds.

Even though God chose to unfold His story of redemption through the family of Abraham, the LORD has always the been available to all people of every nation.  In these opening verses, consider the depiction of God's message for the Gentiles.  He calls to them, "Here I am."

To Israel, His arms are open wide "all the day."  But of these whom He chose to bear His name to the world, God only sees rebellion.  In acts of blatant self-righteousness, they made up their own religion for life-guidance and worship.  Instead of humility before the LORD, they felt their way to be superior.  So much so that verse 5 is the origin of the phrase "holier than thou."

Regardless of nationality, God divides humanity down into two types of people.
1. Those who seek Him. (v.10)
A relationship with the LORD waiting for those who seek Him.  As the Good Shepherd, He leads His people like a flock into safe places.  He provides for their needs.

2. Those who do not seek Him. (v.11-12)
The consequences are severe.  Why such harshness in this wording? Note the three times God says "did not."   "Because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in."

The contrast of the diverse futures for these two continues in verses 13-16.

As we have read before, the prophets often could not see the time periods between future events and, therefore, Isaiah blended some things together.  While verse 17 is quoted in Revelation 21:1, the details are different.  Isaiah's description of the future here is earthly and is consistent with the Millennial Kingdom.  Revelation 21 is definitely a heavenly, an eternal place.  Those who know the LORD will enjoy both!

Every person who ever lived fits into one of these two types of people.  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Praying and Waiting

Read Isaiah 64.

This prophetic prayer that began in chapter 63 continues.  The wording looks forward to a believing Jewish remnant of captives calling out to God for His presence and power.

It will be no secret as to why they ended up in Babylon and why their homeland was destroyed.  Even the burning of Solomon's Temple is mentioned in verse 11.  The cause of these losses were due to their disobedience to God.  Separated from God, their best self-efforts could never atone for their sin.
"We have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (v.6)

In humility, they will come to realize the sovereignty of the LORD and they will desire to surrender themselves to Him completely.  They will call Him "our Father", emphasizing a personal relationship.  They will refer to themselves as a clay in the potter's hand.  (v.8)

Such restoration for which they cry is a spiritual work that only God can do.  It does not happen through natural means.  "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you..." (v.4a)  Jesus compared the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life like wind blowing through the trees (John 3:8).  We cannot see the Spirit; only the effects.  The Apostle Paul referred to Isaiah 64:4a in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 and then stated in the rest of the sentence, "these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit."

Now the good news.  God "acts for those who wait for him.  You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways." (vv.4-5a)  Calling upon God in such a manner and depending upon Him will be worth the wait.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

God keeps His Promises

Read Isaiah 63.

Not every promise in the Bible is one we want to claim.  God in His faithfulness has or will fulfill every one of them.  This chapter contains three promised messages.

1.  The Promised Punishment of Enemies. (vv.1-6)
Not everyone will be glad when Jesus comes the second time.  Israel will experience a spiritual revival and national restoration.  But the enemies of God will experience His vengeance.  The passage describes the Messiah having come from a bloody battle, where He alone fought against the opposition.  The awesome appearance of Jesus in Revelation 19 states, "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God....From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations..." (Revelation 19:13-15)

2.  The Promised Punishment of Judah. (vv.7-14)
Isaiah wrote this about a hundred years in advance to help those who would be experiencing the Babylonian captivity to understand what happened to them.  He reminded the southern kingdom of Judah of God's "steadfast love," His "great goodness," His "compassion," and His "pity" for them.  The LORD consistently provided deliverance for the nation during their times of trouble and affliction.  But despite all that He had done, "they rebelled" (v.10).  This was not an organized demonstration against God, but a rebellion of the heart displayed in their disobedient life.  They "grieved his Holy Spirit."  This is the only time that phrase appears in the Old Testament.  The Apostle Paul warned believers not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" by speaking in an unkind and unforgiving manner (Ephesians 4:29-32).

3.   The Prophesied Prayer of Judah. (vv.15-19)
The prayer for the nation begins here and continues into chapter 64.  It is a cry for God to show His power.  Their petition is based upon the unconditional promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12 (v.16).  The LORD is referred to as "our Father" and "our Redeemer" (v.16).  Though this was written far in advance, Isaiah mentioned that Solomon's beautiful Temple will be "trampled down" by the Babylonians.  With all their losses, the nation will appear as if they never had a relationship with God.

Gratefully, for us, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)  Live according to that promise today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What's in a Name?

Read Isaiah 62.

When Messiah restores Israel, the nation will shine as a light to the entire world and will serve as a crowning adornment to God's work in the world (vv.1-3).

Names in the Bible were given based upon their meaning.  Israel, and the Jews in particular, has been called many names over the centuries.  Some of them such as "forsaken" or deserted (v.4 and v.12) were used because it appeared that God had left them.  That was not true, of course.  It was their sin that separated them from God.  But when Jesus establishes His rule in Jerusalem, they will be known by a set of new names.

Though these are prophecies to be literally fulfilled in the Millennium, there are direct spiritual applications to all those who personally know the LORD.

1. My Delight is in Her. (v.4)
Nationally, the visible, reigning presence of Christ in Jerusalem will be proof enough of this name.
Personally, the psalmist wrote: "He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me." (Psalm 18:19)

2. Married. (v.4-5)
Nationally: The word is actually "Beulah."  In that day, Israel will be a place of peace and joy.  People will flock to live in the land and be committed to it as a married couple are to each other.
Personally: The marriage commitment is to reflect our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32).

3. The Holy People. (v.12a)
Nationally: Because of their personal faith in the Messiah, He sets them apart to Himself as a sacred people.
Personally: The Apostle Peter declared concerning those who place their faith in Christ: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called out you of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

4. The Redeemed of the LORD. (v.12b)
Nationally: In the Old Testament, the law required a kinsman to buy back the person or property that needed to be delivered from an encumberment, such as a lien or even slavery.
Personally:  "Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19)

5. Sought Out. (v.12c)
Nationally: Instead of being opposed and despised by the world, nations will flock to Israel to bring their wealth and to worship.
Personally: "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you; yet, do it with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Prophecy partly Fulfilled

Read Isaiah 61.

This chapter unfolds the actions of the coming Messiah and His restoration of believing Israel.  All three persons of the Trinity are present in the first verse: The Spirit, The Lord God, the Messiah.

According to Luke 4, Jesus attended the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath.  Most likely, the Rabbi asked Jesus to read the Scriptures that day.  The passage was Isaiah 61:1-2a.  The chapter and verse numbers were added much later.  Something unusual took place as he read.  Even when He sat down, the people silently stared at Him.  Jesus broke the silence and said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

There can be absolutely no doubt that Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God.  The people in Luke 4 clearly understood His claim and it angered them.

Note that Jesus did not read the entire passage but stopped in the middle of Isaiah's declarative statements.  This points to the fact that Jesus fulfilled verses 1-2a in His first coming and the rest would take place when He comes again.

There are seven statements of Messiah message and ministry.
1. In His first advent as Savior, He came to proclaim good news, to heal, and free people from their spiritual bondage.

2. In His second advent as King of Kings, He will take vengeance on the enemies of God and bring comfort and restoration to Israel.

God's purpose is that they will serve Him and minister to the rest of the world.  They will stand as God's chosen people.  "So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations." (v.11b).