Saturday, November 29, 2014

Do people get the leaders they Deserve?

Read Lamentations 4.

"Every country has the leadership it deserves."  That quote from the writings of Joseph de Maistre in 1811 concerning Russia has been translated, altered, and attributed variously over the years.  As leaders go, so goes the nation.

Over the years, the kings and other leaders in Jerusalem made sure the city was secure, safe and self-sufficient.  The walls and gates of the city could withstand any opposition.  An underground tunnel supplied water.  God's blessings of abundance caused food to be stored.  So, when Jeremiah and other of God's prophets spoke of surrendering to the Babylonians, it sounded like treason.  "The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world that foe or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem." (v.12)

But the multiple sins of the corrupt governmental and spiritual leaders reached a point where God intervened (v.13).  He warned them if they did not surrender the people would die by sword, pestilence or famine.  After a 30 month siege, this fourth funeral poem for Jerusalem records the results.  It is one of the more difficult chapters in the Bible to read due to the graphic awfulness of the famine.

What used to be precious and of high value, such as gold, gems, leadership positions, and even human life, became worthless.  Bodies of old and young, rich and poor were strewn on the ground and left like broken pieces of pottery.  There is an interesting contrast in verse 6 with Sodom and Gomorrah.  That judgment in Genesis was quick, but this one was painfully prolonged.

In the closing verses, Edom, celebrated the calamity.  They helped the Babylonians by sealing off any escape in their direction.  Jeremiah let them know that their day of judgment was coming.  The prophet Obadiah's message further explained God's ultimate punishment of Edom.

What a difference there would have been if Judah's leaders had fully obeyed the LORD and led the people in doing what was right!  Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Finding God in the middle of the Pain

Read Lamentations 3.

Preachers have feelings too.  It is an awe-filled task to deliver God's messages of sin and judgment.  Jeremiah understood his own human flaws and disobedience.  Then, when the fulfillment of the prophecies began to unfold, he experienced the loss of all things along with his countrymen.

Chapter 3 is the third acrostic eulogy for Jerusalem.  There are two notable differences.  First, instead of one verse for each of the 22 Hebrew letters, this poem takes three for each.  Second, this is Jeremiah's very personal response to what has happened to the city, to the people, and to himself.

The insights come, not from his deep feelings of hurt, but notice how he moved from there to his faith.

1. Jeremiah's Hurt. (vv.1-18)
When his world fell apart, it brought him to a dark place "without any light" (v.2).  The results were both inside and out.  It affected him physically (v.4), emotionally (v.5), spiritually (v.8).  He could find no place of peace (v.17).  He reached the end of his perceived ability to endure it any longer (v.18).

These are not the words one would expect of a man of God.  Is not the believer always to be singing the victory song?  Don't the people who trust the LORD live above it all?  Those who have placed their trust in the LORD have the same emotions and experience the same hurts in life as everyone else.  There is no denying reality.  But, there is more.

2. Jeremiah's Hope. (vv.19-40)
Tears?  Yes.  In verse 49, he wrote, "My eyes will flow without ceasing."  However, the believer processes the pain differently.  Greater than their hurt is their hope.  It requires a deliberate act of faith to also "call to mind" (v.21) the rest of the story.  Circumstances may change, but God does not change.  Discipline for sin may come, but so does God's mercy.  His offer of forgiveness and restoration is immediately available for those who put their trust in Him.  Indeed, the very purpose of this discipline of Judah was to turn hearts back to the LORD.

In the middle of his pain, in the center section of this book, Jeremiah penned, perhaps, his most famous words: "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (vv.22-23)

3. Jeremiah's Help. (vv.41-66)
He acknowledged his hurt.  He remembered his hope.  Then, he turned to the source of his help.  Jeremiah recognized that he was not the only one hurting.  He called upon those around him to examine themselves and come clean with God,  He prayed, realizing the LORD was always present, hearing and seeing what happened, and powerfully able to intervene.

"This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles." (Psalm 24:6)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What happens when people ignore God's Kindness?

Read Lamentations 2.

Jeremiah is often called the "weeping prophet."  He wept over his country's sin and their refusal to repent.  Here, in this second of five funeral poems for Jerusalem, he cried until he could do so no longer (v.11).  What he observed caused him to be sick to his stomach.

In the opening verses, Jeremiah made it clear that it was the LORD Himself who inflicted this destruction.  He did so out of anger (v.1), without mercy (v.2), in His wrath (v.2), like an enemy (v.4), and in fierce indignation (v.6).  The prophet itemized the losses one by one from the fires, as the Babylonians burned the city, to the killing of many, to the city walls, gates and Temple that were destroyed.

The  preacher was at a loss for words (v.13).  What could he possibly say now?  He had warned them that this was coming if they did not turn back to God.  But, at this point, there seemed to be nothing he could say that would bring comfort and healing.

Even the law of Moses with its priests and the prophets were no longer operative (v.9).  In truth, the people had ignored God's word for a long time, except to go through the motions of certain rituals and festivals to their liking.  However, had they taken heed to God's word, they would have known of these consequences.  A thousand years before, in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God told them their disobedience would bring such results.  With uncanny precision, what God said came true.

"The LORD has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes." (v.17)

The daily, moment by moment, kindness of God should move us to turn from sin to holy living.
"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Disobedience and Discipline

Read Lamentations 1.

This is a book of laments or five funeral poems for the city of Jerusalem.  After years of warning, Judah's demise at the hands of the Babylonians became a reality.  The once proud city that reached its zenith when Solomon ruled as king was no more.  Everything had been stripped away; no power, no abundance, no prestige, no friends, only enemies.

The poems are in acrostic style.  Each lament has 22 verses, each verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Chapter 3 triples the number of verses for each Hebrew letter.

It is a sad eulogy.  In the very first verse, Jeremiah described Jerusalem as a destitute widow who had lost everything.  Then, he remembered her as being a princess who had become a slave.  As a result, the city was no longer the place of God's blessings and celebrations.  This caused everyone, even the roads (v.4), to mourn and groan.  Five times in this first chapter we read that there was none to comfort or to help her.  In verse 12, with outstretched arms looking for someone to care, she cried, "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?"

In the personification of Jerusalem, there was no one to blame but herself.  As Jeremiah quotes her in verse 18, "The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word."  As a loving father, God had to discipline His disobedient children.

The purpose of good discipline is to correct wayward behavior.  When the LORD disciplines, it is to stop us from sinning and to bring us back to godly living in accordance with His word.  "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10b-11)
The blessing comes when we are willing to be trained by God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Listening in the tough Times

Read Jeremiah 52.

All that God said concerning the downfall of Judah came true.  In this closing chapter, Jeremiah summarized what took place.  The king and the people refused to listen and trust what God said to them.

1. Jeremiah repeatedly warned Zedekiah not to rebel but to surrender in peace.  He would not listen and he paid a severe price.  His sons were slaughtered in front of him.  His eyes were put out.  The Babylonians imprisoned him for the rest of his life.

2. In chapter 27, Jeremiah warned that the rebellion would lead to the destruction of Solomon's beautiful Temple in Jerusalem.  Further, the Babylonians would take all the precious vessels of the Temple.  More to the king's liking, Hananiah, a false prophet, spoke the opposite message.  Jeremiah was treated as a traitor.  Here in chapter 52, the writer details the extensive work in tearing down the various parts of the Temple and hauling them off.

3. All the remaining city officials, including the Temple priests, were executed.

4. A few of the poorest in the area were allowed to stay in order to work the land.  In a series of deportations, thousands were taken in exile to Babylon.

As bad as these fulfilled prophecies are, God had not forsaken His people.  This earthly punishment of the nation was due to their sin and only for a time.  Jeremiah had also delivered God's message that the exile would last 70 years.  Even in exile, the LORD was gracious.  He remained faithful to them in meeting their needs, as Jeremiah stated in Lamentations.  His presence was there, as Ezekiel addressed.  He demonstrated His power again and again, as Daniel recorded.

King David wrote Psalm 23, "The LORD is my shepherd."  As a good shepherd, God cares for His own through the toughest of times.  "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Listen to and trust the Shepherd.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Are some people getting away with Sin?

Read Jeremiah 51.

God's judgment against Babylon required two chapters.  In chapter 50, there are details of an invasion from the north to totally destroy the land.  It became obvious that many of the statements refers to a distant future punishment.  Here, in chapter 51, more detail is provided about the immediate invasion.

Though their destruction will be at the hands of another nation, God takes full credit.  "I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon." (v.1)  In the first fall of Babylon, God used the Medes along with the Persians (v.11a).  The Babylonians had been His instrument to mete out His punishment against others.  But the long-suffering patience of the LORD had come to an end.  "The land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt." (v.5b)   It is not only their personal sin that was "full" according to God, but He had not forgotten their desecration of His Temple in Jerusalem (v.11b)   "This is the time of the LORD's vengeance, the repayment he is rendering to her." (v.6)

What about Israel and Judah?  Had God forgotten them?  Will they be caught in the cross-fire of Babylon's collapse.  There had to be days when the Jews felt forsaken.  To the contrary, God said, "For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts." (v.5a)  In fact, when Cyrus, King of Persian, took over, he offered to let the Jews return to their homeland and even paid for the rebuilding of the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

God always takes care of His own in the midst of pouring out His wrath and delivers them.  God sees every sin and every injustice.  In His time, He will carry out His justice.  Though for the present it may appear that the guilty are unchecked, we need only to wait on God's timing.  No one gets away with sin.

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine.  I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Time and the promises of God

Read Jeremiah 50.

Now, God turned His attention to Babylon.  This is the empire that He had used to punish other nations, but their judgment is coming.  Their sin of pride and false worship will reach an end of God's patience with them.  In addition, the LORD will take vengeance for what the Babylonians did to His holy Temple in Jerusalem (v.28).

At first glance, it would be a quick assumption to conclude that this is referring to the fall of Babylon by the Persians in 539 B.C.  However, on closer reading, a half dozen statements will not match the invasion by Cyrus.  For instance, the Persians came from the east, not the north (v.3).  Also, the Persians did not totally destroy Babylon but occupied it to control their empire from India to Africa.  Therefore, the LORD has something more in mind.

Yes, there was a partial return of the exiles of Judah under Cyrus.  But, the regathering of a united Israel and Judah in the land of promise for the intent of worshiping God forever has yet to happen (vv.4-5).

In Revelation 17-18, we have revealed to us that there is a future Babylon to be built.  It will fall being totally destroyed near the end of the Great Tribulation.  Note that Revelation 18:2 states, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!"  Twice fallen.  It fell once, but there is a greater fall coming.

Time and years are counted here on earth.  God lives in eternity.  Though more than 2500 years have past on earth, yet God's word concerning Babylon is as valid as if He had pronounced it five minutes ago.  The same is true for all the promises of God to us.  If it is the word of God, you can stake your eternity on it.

"For all the promises of God find Yes in him.  That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Learning our lessons from History

Read Jeremiah 49.

God continued His pronouncements of judgments on the surrounding Gentile nations.  Five are mentioned in this one chapter.

Like Moab, the Ammonites were descendants of Lot through incest with his other daughter.  With Judah in exile, the Ammonites decided to move into the deserted territories.  They felt safe, secure and untouchable.  Their pride-filled question was "Who will come against me?"  The answer came quickly from the LORD, "I will." (vv.4-5)

The condemnation of Edom parallels the message of Obadiah.  Teman was known for its wise men.  In Job 2:11, Eliphaz was a Temanite who tried to bring counsel to Job.  God's question for Edom in verse 7 was "Is there no more wisdom in Teman?"  They had not only sinned against the LORD but they had committed a great wrong against their national brother, Israel.  Edomites were descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob.  Most of these judgments ends with a promise of future restoration for that nation. Edom is an exception.  Once their punishment came, they no longer existed as a people group.

This is a prophecy against Syria.  God used the Babylonians to fulfill this judgment.  The mention of Ben-hadad refers to the rulers of Syria in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. (Charles Dyer, Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Kedar and Hazor
The LORD also used Nebuchadnezzar to take care of the sin of the desert tribes mentioned here.  They were nomads.  Being mobile meant they had no city gates or doors to lock.  So, they felt safe and secure in their remote locations. (v.31)  But God warned, "I will bring their calamity from every side of them." (v.32)  There is no future for the people of Hazor as it will be "an everlasting waste." (v.33)

The area of Elam is modern day Iran.  Elam was well-known for its archers and here God promised to "break the bow of Elam." (v.35)  While a destruction surely came upon them historically, it is interesting to note that the LORD promised "I will set my throne in Elam." (v.38).  That coupled with the promise of restoration points to His future reign on earth.

Wise people learn from history so as to avoid the same mistakes.  The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
"For we have come to share Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  As it is said, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:14-15)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Is God's judgment a sure Thing?

Read Jeremiah 48.

All sin grieves the heart of God.  In the days of Noah, sin was so rampant "the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." (Genesis 6:6)  The Apostle Paul warned, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30).  When sin reaches a certain point without repentance, God will act.  It pained God to bring judgment on Moab.  "I wail for Moab; I cry out for all Moab." (v.31)

Moab was the son of Lot, whom he fathered through incest.  His descendants lived on the southeast side of the Dead Sea.  The Moabites are described in this chapter as being prosperous and self-sufficient.  Nothing seemed to be a bother to them until now.

An enemy will come upon them like a fast, swooping eagle (v.40).  The reaction by the soldiers of Moab will be like a woman with labor pains (v.42).  In the totality of the devastation, their national identity will be lost.  God called this judgment His doing and even promised to curse anyone who held back during the battle in punishing Moab (v.10).

As people flee for their lives, those they pass will ask "What has happened?" (v.19)  Others may ask why this happened.  God is very clear as to the answer.

1. "Because you trusted in your works and your treasures." v.7
They worked hard and watched their incomes go up.  Being financially independent can result in a wrong sense of self-sufficiency.  Independence often leads a person to claim no need of God.  The LORD loves those who live day by day with total dependence on Him.

2. "Because he magnified himself against the LORD." v.26 and v.35
Every life has a spiritual vacuum.  If one does not turn to the one true and living God, they will endeavor to fill that emptiness with false beliefs.  The Moabites made up their own gods and worshiped them with sacrifices and offerings.  The LORD will share His glory with no one or nothing else.  He demands exclusive worship.

3. "Because he magnified himself against the LORD." v.42
This charge against Moab is repeated for emphasis.  Once a person thinks they have no need of God, and then make up their own worship, they will become defiant against the LORD and His claims.  They will rail against the truth and be accepting of any alternative.

A basic take away from reading the Scriptures is who God is, why and how He acts.  The destruction of Moab and these other nations (exactly as predicted) are facts of history.  The consistent message of God's love and patience is for people to respond in faith and obedience before it is too late.

President John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A time to unsheathe the Sword

Read Jeremiah 47.

"For I the LORD do  not change."  (Malachi 3:6)  A foundational understanding of the God of the Bible is that His character is, has always been, and forever will be the same.  1 John 4:8 states: "God is love."  Exodus 15:3 declares: "The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name."  This not a contradiction or a change but a complete picture of His nature.  He hates sin and will bring justice.  In His love, He provides every opportunity for people to respond to His grace.

God's judgment against the surrounding Gentile nations turned to the Philistines.  These were a coastal people who had migrated from Crete.  Throughout most of the Old Testament the Philistines were a consistent enemy of Israel.  The battle scene of the Babylonians coming in from the north is described as a rushing flood of water overtaking them faster than they can run from it.  Though it outwardly appeared to be nation against nation, verses 6 and 7 refers to it as the "sword of the LORD."

A sword is a personal offensive weapon.  When, in the timing of God, He has had enough of sin, the LORD inflicts His judgment, using a powerful enemy nation, pestilence, or withholding needed resources.  God's "sword" of justice comes at His command.  As He spoke creation into existence by the power of His word (Hebrews 11:3), so He metes out His justice by command.  This is true from Genesis to Revelation.  Direct references are made to the sword of the LORD no less than 29 times in 16 books of the Bible.  Here are few examples:

The first mention is in Genesis 3:24, God positioned His sword in judgment to guard the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.

Balaam saw that sword in the hand of the angel of the LORD; a preincarnate appearance of Christ. (Numbers 22:31)

Joshua saw the angel of the LORD with that sword in Joshua 5:13, as he prepared to inflict God's judgment on Jericho.

God commanded Gideon to defeat the Midianites and in doing so shouted, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" (Judges 7:20)

When David sinned, it was the sword of the LORD that responded in the death of thousands. (1 Chronicles 21:12-30)

In Ephesians 6:17, the Apostle Paul explained "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  This is piece of the spiritual equipment every believer is to put on and the only offensive weapon issued to us.

As Jesus is revealed in Revelation 1:16, the words coming from His mouth are described as a two-edged sword.  And, in 19:15 at the return of Jesus to earth, that commanding word of God will strike down all the nations that have opposed Him.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account." (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

3 promises in an awful Time

Read Jeremiah 46.

From chapter 46 to chapter 51, God addressed the surrounding nations.  He began with Egypt.

The Egyptians seemingly worshiped anything but the true and living LORD.  Spiritually, they tried everything and nothing worked.  Even the famous balm of Gilead could not help them.  "In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you." (v.11b)  Their sin had reached full measure (v.12) and now God was poised with their earthly punishment.

The battle described here took place in 605 B.C. and is confirmed by Babylon's own historical records.  In their pride, the Egyptians marched all the way to the Euphrates River.  But when they arrived, the Babylonian army overwhelmed them.  The Egyptians fled but none escaped.

God took full credit for the defeat.  "Why are your mighty ones face down?  They do not stand because the LORD thrust them down." (v.15)  In fact, He called this His day of vengeance on the Egyptians as His enemies (v.10).  The land of Egypt fell to the control of the Babylonian Empire.

Then, in the closing verses the LORD turned to address His chosen people.  During this awful time of war and exile, twice He encouraged them with the words "fear not."  Were they not experiencing His discipline?  Yes.  But, reassurances came through His promises.
"I will save you..."
"I am with you."
"I will by no means leave you..."

Compare those statements with some well-known verses in the New Testament, e.g., Hebrews 13:5.  These are the exact same promises the Lord Jesus has given to those who turn to Him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A hope that does not Change

Read Jeremiah 45.

How would you respond if you knew your dreams would never come true?  Would you still trust the LORD?  Dr. Crawford Loritts asked such haunting questions in a Sunday morning sermon.

According to the details found in chapter 36, God gave direct messages to Jeremiah.  Then, Jeremiah's assistant, Baruch, took dictation to record what God said.  Repeatedly, listening to and writing down words of impending judgment became a burdensome task.  Even more, Baruch personally experienced the loss of everything.  He watched as God's word came true.

"What about me?"  He faithfully served God and Jeremiah.  And, now what did he have to show for it.  The emotional and spiritual pain caused him to "find no rest."

If our hope is in the circumstances of our lives going well, we will live in disappointment and disillusionment.  People will let us down.  Money will be spent.  All things will eventually change.  And, at best, this life is only temporal.  When the world around us is falling apart, we must have a hope that does not change and may be found eternally trustworthy.

God reminded Baruch that He is sovereign.  The world is His creation and He can do as pleases Him.  He has a plan and He is working that plan.  And, through it all, including the war, Baruch's temporal reward will be the sparing of his life.  This was meant to encourage this faithful man and bring him joy in midst of adversity.

Looking down will always be depressing.  Looking up to see life from God's perspective revives our faith.

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 things God Wants

Read Jeremiah 44.

The remnant from Judah fled to Egypt to escape the Babylonians.  They forced Jeremiah to go with them.  It apparently did not take long for those from Judah to quickly assimilate into Egyptian idolatry.

One of the idols was worshiped previously (see chapter 7).  They gave full credit to a female goddess for their blessings and blamed their lack of offerings to her as the cause for their great losses.  To the so-called queen of heaven did they pray and sacrifice.  Giving credit, glory, praise, sacrifices, and offerings to anyone but the One, True and Living God is termed here as "evil deeds", "abominations", sin and disobedience (vv.22-23).
After all they had experienced and been taught, they failed to learn the lesson.  One of God's questions to them was, "Have you forgotten?" (v.9).  Jeremiah delivered the message straight from the LORD and their response was, "We will not listen to you" (v.16).

Many today will pray to themselves in self-affirmations, look to the stars and universe for guidance, bow before statues, or call upon others in heaven to help them.  The Scriptures could not be more clear.
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:5)  Praying to anyone or anything else is sin against God.

What should the people have done instead?  What does God want from us?
The answer is in verse 10.
1. Dependence on God.
The root problem was that these folks pridefully thought that they knew better than the LORD who created them.  God requires a humble heart that is totally submissive to Him.

2. Reverence of God.
There was no respect for who God is, what He has done, or what He has said.  They had no fear of the consequences.  The results were disastrous for them.  Fearing God is the starting point of wisdom and real life (Proverbs 1:7).

3. Obedience to God.
Enjoying His blessings is the benefit of fellowship with God.  Walking with Him moment by moment throughout each day is personal, not philosophical.  We become what He wants us to be and we do what He wants us to do.
"When we walk with the Lord in the Light of His Word what a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His goodwill, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey."
J. H. Sammis

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The foundation of Faith

Read Jeremiah 43.

Johanan asked Jeremiah to pray and to tell them what God had to say.  But when God's word was delivered, Johanan refused to accept it as the truth.  He blamed the messenger.  This is very much like those today who only want to accept the parts of the Bible that agrees with them.  They dismiss the rest as the writer's personal opinion.  Such irrational thinking sets up every person as their own pride-filled authority of truth.

Against all that God had said, Johanan took the people he rescued, including Jeremiah, to Egypt.  They settled in Tahpanhes.  This was a fortified city near the Nile River in northeast Egypt.  Here, they would be safe from the Babylonians.  Or, so they thought.

God had warned them that going to Egypt would be no escape but would result in their death.  Not only did Nebuchadnezzar bring his army to avenge the murders of his representatives (chapter 41), but God had had enough of Egypt's idolatry.  He would use Nebuchadnezzar as His "servant" (v.10) to accomplish His judgment.

In dramatic fashion, the LORD instructed Jeremiah to foretell exactly what was about to take place.  He even marked the spot where the king of Babylon would sit when Egypt would be destroyed and taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

The foundation of faith is embracing the answer to "What is the Bible?"  Is it just a collection of lore with some historical value or is it in fact the word of God?  If it is the very truth from God, then it is infallible and inerrant.  Otherwise, it cannot be trusted.

Throughout the Bible the Scriptures make claims that cannot be dismissed.
"And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules." (Psalm 119:43)
"The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." (Psalm 119:160)
"...for you have exalted above all things your name and your word." (Psalm 138:2b)
"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Did you really mean what you Prayed?

Read Jeremiah 42.

Prayer is not just saying the right words.  Prayer involves submission of our will to God's will.

The courageous Johanan rescued the people of Mizpah who had been taken by Ishmael.  With the murder of the governor of Judah, along with some of the Babylonian representatives, Nebuchadnezzar would surely retaliate.  To avoid any more battles, Johanan was leading the group to Egypt to escape.  On the way, they stopped to ask Jeremiah to pray for them.

Their requests in verses 2-3 have all the appearances of sincerity and godliness.
1. Mercy.
God had inflicted His judgment upon Judah.  Now, this remnant desired His compassion.  Food was in extremely short supply.  They were frightened by the prospect of the Babylonian revenge, even though these people were innocent.  They wanted God's intervention.

2.  Direction.
Should we go or stay?  If we go, will God bless us in Egypt?  If we stay, where should we settle?  They asked for God's will and His leadership.

3. Wisdom.
They wanted to know what God wanted them to do.  In the truest sense, this was an opportunity for a brand new start.  Everything was in front of them.  Decisions needed to be made.

These prayer requests were followed by strong words of commitment, even before they knew the answers.  They promised to obey God no matter what.  "Good or bad, where we like it or not, we will do what God wants done."

God did answer them.  They were to stay in the land of Canaan.  There would be no need to fear.  God promised He would take care of them.  However, if they disobeyed and journeyed to Egypt, they would die and experience the very things they were trying to avoid.

But, they had already made up their minds to go to Egypt.  Their words to Jeremiah proved empty.  Their plans were set; they just wanted God to bless their disobedience.  They willfully marched headlong into disaster.  Isaiah 53:6 states that wanting to go our own way is the essence of sin against God.

How God desires for us to cast our total dependence upon Him.
"All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live."
J.W. Van DeVenter

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A key to a leader's Survival

Read Jeremiah 41.

A leader's success and survival most often depends on those closest to him.  Listening to the right voices and knowing who to trust is crucial.

Gedaliah was a good man who had been appointed to govern Judah under Babylonian rule.  His closest advisers warned him of the murder plot from the rebel Ishmael.  But Gedaliah ignored the threat and in a demonstration of unity, he invited Ishmael and his men to dinner.  It cost him his life and the lives of all those present, including the representatives of Babylon.

Ishmael was a descendant of David's royal family and surely thought he had a right to rule.  But he was a rebel.  He rebelled against God and would not listen to Jeremiah's messages.  He rebelled against the Babylonians and fled to the Ammonites to mount a fight against the invaders.  Here, he deceived Gedaliah only for the purpose of mass murder.  He had no qualifications of character to lead anyone, let alone Judah.

A leader needs to listen to everyone so he knows what people are thinking.  But decisions must be made wisely.  First and foremost, the character of the person who seeks to influence the leader must be considered.  Ulterior motives must be exposed.  Tolerating lack of character and wrong motives will lead to disaster.

1. Do not trust a rebellious person.
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." (1 Samuel 15:23)
"An evil man seeks only rebellion." (Proverbs 17:11)

2. Do trust the wisdom of God and godly people.
"The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15)
"The counsel of the LORD stands forever." (Psalm 33:11)

The difference may be life and death.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Faithfulness gets Rewarded

Read Jeremiah 40.

Proverbs 16:7-"When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."

Chained and herded along with all the other captives, Jeremiah had been taken to Ramah.  Here, the captain of the guard decided the fate of each one.  Many were marched to Babylon.  The poorest of the poor were allowed to stay in the land.

The captain's words to Jeremiah in verses 2-3 clearly indicate that he knew who Jeremiah was and about the messages from God that he delivered.  Jeremiah was not part of the rebellion and posed no threat.  Indeed, God's message to Judah was to surrender to the Babylonians.  As a result, Jeremiah was unchained and given absolute freedom.  Not only that, the captain presented Jeremiah with provisions and a present.

Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah.  His ministry changed.  No longer would he be preaching to kings and the people of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem had been destroyed and the seat of government moved to Mizpah.  Those remaining were either very poor, a remnant of soldiers in the field who just discovered what happened, or untrustworthy rebels.

Years had passed and the prophecies of the LORD concerning Judah's downfall came true.  Jeremiah suffered but not at the hands of the enemy.  It was his own people who refused to listen to God's word that tried to do him harm.  Even the unbelieving captain could see that God's word was true.

Ultimately, our trust for our lives must be in the Sovereign LORD.  He is working His plan in His time.  Meanwhile, He requires us to be faithful servants, taking what comes-good and bad-knowing that there are rewards waiting for those who love Him.  It is by faith, not by feeling or by sight, that we hold on to this truth.  "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Truth and Consequences

Read Jeremiah 39.

The prophecy of Jerusalem's downfall came true, just as God had warned.  In 586 B.C., after a 30 month siege, the Babylonians breached the northern wall and quickly seized control.

1. Zedekiah (vv.4-8)
Meanwhile, King Zedekiah did exactly what Jeremiah told him not to do; he tried to escape.  The results were disastrous and brutal.

God had made His message clear that surrender would mean life and continued rebellion would lead to dire consequences for both the king and the city.  He refused to listen to the truth.  Instead, he relied on his own understanding and heeded the lies of others.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

However, during the hostile takeover of Jerusalem, God stepped in to take care of two faithful men.

2. Jeremiah (vv.11-14)
Nebuchadnezzar personally gave the order to protect and provide for this faithful prophet.  The new appointed governor, Gedaliah, was given full responsibility for Jeremiah.  Whatever the prophet said or needed would be done.  It would be natural to ask how the King of Babylon even knew who Jeremiah was and why would he treat Jeremiah with such favor.  There are several clues.  In chapter 29, Jeremiah wrote letters to the exiles in Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar may have been aware or even read the letters.  Then, as some Judahites surrendered early to the Babylonians during the siege, they doubtlessly would have mentioned what the prophet said in calling for a surrender.  The third plausible possibility is that Daniel and his three friends, who had already been taken to Babylon, spoke highly of Jeremiah to the king.  At any rate, God took care of this one who had suffered much while serving Him.
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10)

3. Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (vv.15-18)
This man served as a high official to King Zedekiah.  While all the other officials wanted Jeremiah dead, he went to the king and put his own life and reputation on the line for Jeremiah.  All the other officials were slaughtered by the Babylonians, but God divinely protected this African believer and rewarded him "because you have put your trust in me."
"Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." (Psalm 62:8)