An Extremely Important Message for You from the Potter

Jeremiah 18-22

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Have you ever made something from clay like a clay pot?  You have to work the clay with your hands and keep it moist.  You can throw a pot on a potter’s wheel and as long as the pot stays moist and pliable you can keep working with it and if it doesn’t look right you can smash it down and remake it, as long as it stays pliable.  But what happens once the clay is dried, hardened in a kiln or other fire?  What if, after it’s hard you discover that it is defective, that it doesn’t hold water?  At that point it becomes worthless.  You can’t rework it, you can only smash it into pieces.

In this section of Jeremiah, God again uses graphic imagery to reveal to His people their sin.  Like a potter, God has worked and worked with His people Israel and Judah.  He has shaped them and molded them and worked them thoroughly to craft a useful vessel.  What was God’s purpose for creating Israel?  Why did he create a special nation?  He wanted them to be a light to the rest of the world.  He wanted all people to come to know Him as the only true God.  He said to Abraham that he would bless the whole world through Abraham and his descendants.  Israel was to shine the light of God’s word and God’s truth to the rest of the world.  God spent years patiently and carefully crafting his people.  From Abraham and the patriarchs to Moses, through the many judges of Israel, then through Kings David and Solomon.  He worked and worked with the clay to make a suitable vessel.  They built a temple as a place of worship.  Under Solomon Jerusalem became a great and prosperous city with a Temple to the one true God and became the talk of the nations as royalty came to see the city of God in all of its splendor.

But God’s vessel wouldn’t hold water.  The pot was cracked.  Israel kept turning away from the one true God who created them and worshipped idols.  They worshipped the pagan gods of Baal and Molech.  God tried to reshape and reform His deformed pot, His disobedient, covenant breaking people.  But every time they were restored, they would once again return to their idol worship.  To get their attention, God had Jeremiah take a pot and symbolically shatter it to the ground.  This is a sign of what God is going to do to His people if they do not repent and turn from their wicked ways.

Jeremiah enacted this ritual shattering in a place called the Valley of Ben Hinnom or Topheth.  A quick reading of Jeremiah 19:4 might cause one to miss the point here. “For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent.”  It was at Topheth they worshipped foreign gods, a.k.a. idols, they burned incense to those gods… that sounds bad, worshipping false gods and burning incense to those gods, not a good look.  But why is God so mad about this that He’s ready to smash their kingdom?  It’s the last part: “they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent.”  Let’s look a little more closely at that.  Who exactly are the innocent?

The worship of Molech involved offering sacrifices to the god.  So what’s the big deal, didn’t God also demand sacrifices of sheep and goats, ox and doves?  A lot of blood was shed in the temple of Jerusalem.  True, but the worship of Molech didn’t involve killing sheep and goats.  These were human sacrifices.  Lot’s of cultures did that too – the Mayans and Aztecs and other Mesoamerican religious groups did a lot of human sacrifices. (Just watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom… or Apocalypto and you’ll see the grisly story of human sacrifice).  But Molech was even worse.  The humans they were sacrificing were truly innocent… they sacrificed children.  In that very spot, in the valley of Hinnom in the place called Topheth, God’s covenant people Israel did what God never told them to do, burn their innocent children on the altar to Molech.

A nation that would sacrifice the most innocent to the gods of the age cannot survive.  But when that nation, the Nation of Israel was set apart by God to be a light to the darkness, when that light goes out and the nation plunges into darkness, God has no choice but to smash it, to bring it crashing down, to stop the heinous practice of child sacrifice.

Jesus would later tell his disciples, “You are the light of the world.”  The Church was to complete the task that Israel had begun but failed to complete.

1500 years later when the first pilgrims and puritans crossed the Atlantic in the Mayflower and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first governor, John Winthrop, borrowed such imagery as he spoke of these Christians who helped begin what was to become the United States of America:  “for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for Gods sake; we shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going.”

That was in 1630, 343 years later, January 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe V. Wade that laws preventing abortion must be struck down.  Since that time over 60 million unborn humans have been sacrificed, not to Molech, but to the gods of choice and sexual liberation.

When Israel allowed their innocent children to be sacrificed to Molech and refused to repent, God had Jeremiah smash a clay pot to show that he was about to smash them.  That spot where the blood of the innocent was shed, in the Valley of Hinnom or Topheth, was later the place where Israel’s dead were piled up after the Babylonians smashed Jerusalem and Judah.  Later that spot became the garbage pile where not only the dead were disposed but all the refuse of Israel was burnt up.  It became known as Gehenna or the Lake of Fire, the place of destruction, the place of God’s judgment against sin.

If God did such judgment against Israel for their horrific crimes of child sacrifice, can the United States expect any less judgment?  I know that might make some of you angry at me, just as in the time of Jeremiah the people were furious with him and threw him into a pit.  Jeremiah couldn’t keep his mouth shut because God’s word was in his heart like a fire 20:9.  God used Jeremiah to warn the people of the “terrible plague” of judgment that was coming to punish their pride.  He said that later people would look and ask “why did God do this?” 22:9.  John Winthrop would later say the same thing about the US.  As we look at where the US has come since 1630, how far we’ve drifted from being a God fearing nation, might we ask the question: Why wouldn’t God do this? If we refuse to let God remold us, if we become hard and brittle why wouldn’t he smash us?

PS- to throw a bit of good news after all this bad… even after a pot is smashed, a true artist can take those smashed pieces and remake it into a beautiful mosaic.  God isn’t finished with us quite yet no matter how brittle or unyielding we may be.

 

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 18-22, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+18-22&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will continue with Jeremiah 23-25 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Will it Be Okay?

Jeremiah 14-17

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I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  As a pastor I’m often present for the happiest moments of people’s lives – when they get married, when they have a baby and want to have that baby blessed, when they give their life to Jesus Christ and are baptized, and when they celebrate great milestones like graduations, 50th wedding anniversaries and other joys.  I am privileged to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

At the same time, I am also there during some of life’s most painful moments- when a loved one has died after a long illness, or suddenly in a tragic accident, when someone has just been told by their spouse that they want a divorce, or when their child has been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics.  I am there to weep with those who weep.

When people are going through the most painful or difficult challenges of their lives- when they are waiting for a loved one in major surgery, or for the test results to come back, I try to help them and provide a voice of calm assurance.  “It’s going to be okay.”  And of course, I want it to be okay.  But to be honest, sometimes it’s NOT okay.  Sometimes people don’t make it through surgery.  Sometimes couples don’t reconcile and marriages aren’t saved.  Sometimes test results come back and it’s bad.  Sometimes prodigal children don’t come back home, or back to Church or back to God.

Let’s be honest, 2020 sucks!  Covid-19 has killed a lot of people and has a lot of people scared.  A lot of people are out of work and the economy has tanked because of it.  A lot of people are scared to go anywhere including church.  For a time many states told people they weren’t allowed to go to church – what’s up with that?  And in the midst of that we’ve also had racial protests (or sometimes riots), murder hornets, great white shark attacks and now for more fun – its hurricane season.  Some people joke about, “What’s this month’s plague going to be?” but it’s getting to the point where it’s no joke.  Something’s going on.

The caring pastor part of me wants to take you by the hand and say “it’s going to be alright.  We’ll get through this.”  But can I be honest for a minute?  I don’t know that for sure.  For all I know Covid-19 could get a lot worse.  Or the vaccine they make to cure it could turn us all into vampires.  (Just kidding, I just watched the movie I Am Legend where the cure for cancer turned almost everyone into vampires.)  You get my point, I can’t guarantee that in a few weeks or months it’s all going to get better… it might not.

Can I be more honest?  God may be really angry right now.  “Oh, now Pastor Jeff we don’t believe in an angry God anymore- that Angry God of the 18th and 19th century has been replaced by a much more liberal and chill God, haven’t you heard?”  Well, I hate to break it to you but there’s only one God.  The God we worship today is the same God who was around in 600 BC when Jeremiah was walking around on the earth.  It’s the same God who got so angry with Israel for years of unfaithfulness that he sent a drought.  Yep, no water.  He’s the same God who said I’m going to call your neighbors to come and go fishing and hunting… for you, Judah.  It’s the same God who told Jeremiah that all the prophets who were out there telling everyone “It’s all going to be all right, we’re gonna get through this together” were spreading “fake news.”  They were false prophets telling people it was all going to be okay, when clearly God was not done smiting His very disobedient nation.

Make no mistake about it.  America has changed a LOT in the last 50 years.  It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years… or even 5 years.  Things that for a long time everyone agreed were bad, wrong, sinful have been declared ok.  Things that God used to say were important, like getting married BEFORE you have sex, and being faithful to your spouse after you get married, those kinds of things aren’t so important now.  Protecting the lives of the unborn, those aren’t so important either.  In Psalm 139 David says that God is the one who, “knit me together in my mother’s womb” but now it’s okay if the woman chooses to murder that unborn baby.  (“Pastor, you don’t sound very nice anymore, I don’t think I like where this is going?”)

I’m telling you the truth because I love you.  Don’t just listen to me, go back and read the actual verses in Jeremiah 14-17.  God was angry.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people “don’t even bother to pray to me for help right now, because I’m not helping you.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe that God is love and that everything God does is because of His great love for us.  That’s why he sent His Son to rescue us from our sinful ways.   God wants to rescue us from our sinful ways.  What we are doing collectively is WRONG.  It is hurting us.

I read an interesting article recently.  So called progressive elites, those liberal professors who say that traditional morality is bad or outdated, those who say that people should be free to do whatever they want.  Yeah, those people, the highly educated, the elites, the 1%.  They aren’t the ones having babies out of wedlock and whose children are being shot by gangs or dying from opioid addiction.  Those people who are “successful liberal elites” actually get married, then have children, work hard, live in good neighborhoods and do the kinds of things that actually lead to successful lives.  The people who suffer from living in a society that has tried to do away with God and with Biblical morality are actually the poor, the uneducated, those without power and privilege.   What we need to be telling people is the truth.  If you want to thrive and live a flourishing life you should do things the way God says to do it.  Adopt God’s values and live by them.  Turn away from evil.  That’s how you thrive.

Now, after telling Jeremiah that he won’t answer their prayers and things are about to get really bad for them, God does offer this hope.  After all the punishment is over, after the exile has passed, after you have repented and you’ve changed and are willing to start doing things the right way, I will take you back home and restore you and everything will eventually be okay.

So yes, ultimately, everything will be okay.  Someday God will restore this earth to its original state of perfection.  But first, God’s got to do some major housecleaning.  God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.  God wants to make you to be like Jesus.  Follow Him. Turn away from your sinful ways – do not follow this world into judgment, follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 14-17, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+14-17&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 18-22 as we continue seeking God and His Ways on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Judah Kicked Out of the House

Jeremiah 10-13

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We all understand what it is to make a promise.  When you were a little kid did you ever do a “pinky swear” with your friend?  When I was in high school we used to “go steady” with that special guy or girl.  If it was really serious you let her wear your class ring or your letter jacket (my HS girlfriend wore both my class ring and my letter jacket).  To go steady was to make a promise, “I won’t date any other girl but you.”  (note, in the 70’s dating in 7th grade might mean walking her from her locker to class, possibly holding hands publicly, and dancing exclusively with her at the sock hop… I know, times have changed.)  When things got rough, you would “break up”.  There would be tears and drama.  After you broke up, it was understood that you no longer were going steady and were free to walk other girls from their locker or dance at the next sock hop.

Marriage is a more serious commitment.  You make a public promise to God and each other before witnesses to love and be faithful to each other until one of you dies.  That kind of promise is known as a covenant.

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people.  God entered into a covenant with Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob (who later became Israel).  God promised to be their God, to protect them, to provide them with all that they needed:  productive land to live in, abundant children and animals, and protection from their enemies.  In return, God asked Israel to be faithful only to Him.  To worship only God and to follow God’s teaching, God’s instruction, God’s rules for living in community.  They were not to be unfaithful to God by worshipping false gods or man-made gods known as idols.  God warned Israel that if they were not faithful to their covenant with God, they would suffer serious consequences.  God might withhold rain, send plagues, or even allow their larger and more powerful neighboring countries to attack them and God would not defend them.  It was a covenant, a kind of marriage between God and Israel.  In fact, God referred to Israel as His bride.

The bottom line was clear- if you are faithful to God and to the covenant with God, you will be blessed, if you are unfaithful to God and to the covenant, you will be cursed (punished, not experience the blessings).  Throughout their history, Israel frequently went through periods when they were unfaithful to God and violated the covenant.  God would often punish them in some way, they would repent, which means they would turn away from whatever wrong they were doing and return to God, and then God would once again bless them.  However, as time wore on, Israel’s unfaithfulness grew worse and worse, God’s punishments grew harsher and harsher and Israel grew more calloused and disobedient.  Think of a toddler who absolutely refuses to obey his parents.  Usually, a swift punishment will result in repentance.  But after a long time, they had become rebellious teenagers who no longer repented, or as a better example, an unfaithful wife who continually cheats on her husband and doesn’t even bother to hide it from everyone.  Something had to change.

Several hundred years passed since the days of Abraham and later Moses and even King David.  Israel’s unfaithfulness to their covenant with God had grown more brazen as they worshipped Baal and other idols.  Finally, God had had enough.  God was sending his faithless bride into exile.

The prophet Jeremiah was one of several people God sent to Judah, God’s people who lived in the southern Kingdom, where God’s temple in Jerusalem was and from where God’s anointed King ruled.  God told Jeremiah to warn his people that the time had come for them to face the full measure of punishment for breaking faith with God.

Jeremiah 11:6-12

The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes.

This isn’t just, “I’m taking away your cell phone” or “I’m taking away your car keys for a week until you straighten up.”  This is “I’m kicking you out of the house because you refuse to follow the rules.”  It’s harsh punishment.  It’s called “tough love.”   Even loving parents are sometimes forced to have an “intervention” or in the South we say “come to Jesus meeting”.

To illustrate the point, in chapter 13 God tells Jeremiah to get a linen belt, go bury it near a river, then later go back and retrieve the belt, that by then was ruined, and then show it to the people as a visible illustration of what Israel did.  God joined himself to His people symbolized by the linen belt, it was pure and spotless, and yet his people ruined that covenant by their unfaithfulness.  Now, they must face the consequences.

If you are a Christian, you entered into a covenant with God as well.  It was a new covenant, not based on your birth as a descendant of Abraham, but through faith in God’s son, Jesus Christ.  Water baptism is a visible symbol of that covenant.  When you entered that covenant you promised to worship God alone and follow Jesus Christ and keep his instructions.  Have you stayed faithful to your covenant promise to God through faith in Jesus Christ?  Or have you treated your promises to God like that linen belt that’s ruined and worthless.  The good news is, if you’ve been unfaithful to your promises to God there is still time to repent.  What are you waiting for?  Will you do it today?  Pinky swear?

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 10-13, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+10-13&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 14-17 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

“Truth has Perished”

Jeremiah 7-9

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In this world we come across many lies on a daily basis. Through misleading advertising, exaggerated and twisted news stories, social media, and what the masses say, we are introduced to many forms of dishonesty. Sometimes it is difficult to know what to think or what to believe. This can also take a somewhat dangerous turn when we start to believe the lies we are told. Sometimes the truth makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, it is easier to accept the lies and trust in that which makes life and our decisions a little simpler. We begin to trust in deceptive talk.

This is a topic that is written about in Jeremiah chapter 7. The LORD tells Jeremiah to relay to the people that they should not trust in deceptive words. God says that such words are worthless. The actions that believing in such nonsense bring about not only pulls us away from God, but also brings shame upon ourselves.

Sometimes we may view our faith as an entre that we order from a restaurant. We read the menu and instead of accepting the dish as it is, we decide we need to tweak it. We want it to fit our taste and what we want. So, we ask the waiter or waitress to leave the onions off the burger. We may even ask that instead of a beef patty, could it be replaced with a chicken patty? And maybe instead of a bun, we ask for lettuce. We also ask to substitute the fries for a baked potato. At the end of our ordering process, our entre looks completely different. Instead of a burger with fries, we have chicken with a salad and baked potato.

It is easy for us to treat the Bible in the same way. We may like this passage and this one, but not that one. So, we keep what we like and ignore what makes us uncomfortable. We then begin to believe this deception that we have told ourselves and that perhaps others have told us as well. The world might even tell us what we should and shouldn’t believe in the Bible. This is what the people of Israel did as well. They began to forget the ways of the LORD. They did what they wanted and what suited them. They still would go to the temple, though, and say that they were safe there. They wanted God to bless them, but they didn’t want to put in any effort. They believed the other nations and followed the gods of those people. They allowed themselves to be deceived and misled.

Let us take this as a lesson. We can learn from the mistakes of the people in this passage. We have to actively search for the truth. We can dig into scripture. We can, as written in Proverbs 7:3, write it on the tablets of heart. Through doing this we can determine what is true and right. We can avoid believing in the worthless words of deceit.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 7-9, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+7-9&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 10-13 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

At the Crossroads

Jeremiah 4-6

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Imagine that you are on vacation. You are searching for a special restaurant that you wanted to visit while in the area. However, you get lost and come to a crossroads. You don’t know which way to go.  There are two clear options that you have. You can either look for guidance from your GPS or you could ask a local. The other option is relying on yourself to figure out the way even though you are at a loss.

There are many lessons that are taken out of Jeremiah 4-6, but perhaps the one that stands out the most is found in chapter 6. In verse 16 it talks of standing at the crossroads. It says that we should seek the ancient paths when at the crossroads of life. We need to seek the guidance offered to us.

There are many crossroads in life such as the one in the vacation example. However, the crossroads are sometimes not as material as the one in the example. The crossroads we face are not necessarily physical. Many times, they are mental and spiritual ones. Sometimes we feel lost and we do not know where to go next. We don’t know what decision to make, where we should go, or even if we should take that job, or go to that college. Life is full of decisions.

In these times of uncertainty, though, we do not have to find the right way on our own. God is there and if we seek him, he will lead us. He will direct our steps. If we go it on our own, more than likely we will take a wrong turn. We will end up feeling more lost and confused than we did in the beginning. If we rely on ourselves and our sense of direction in an area that is foreign to us, we could get in trouble. We could follow a road that would take us into the bad part of town or to a place where the bridge is out.

However, if we ask for guidance; if we seek the ancient ways, as Jeremiah calls it, we will be set in the right direction. The locals and the GPS have wisdom and perspective that we do not.

How do we seek these ancient ways? Reading the Bible, digging into that Word, and prayer is a great way to seek this guidance. I have come across many so-called crossroads. Some of them more confusing than others. These crossroads included times when I didn’t know where I should work, if I should serve in a certain mission field or not, what I should study in college, and figuring out how I should react in certain situations. I would always feel confused in these situations, but when I remembered to pray, it seemed to come into perspective. That guidance and comparing the aspects of the situation to the stories in the Bible helps me to make these decisions. By seeking the counsel of the LORD, I was able to know which way to go when brought to the crossroads. Prayer is a powerful tool that we have graciously been given access. So let us use what has been made available to us.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 4-6 , can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+4-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 7-9 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Called and Used by the Generous God

Jeremiah 1-3

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These first 3 chapters of Jeremiah have several applications for the reader. In the beginning of this book, we learn about the calling of Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah was even born, the Lord set him aside to be a prophet. God wanted to use Jeremiah to fulfill this calling. Jeremiah at first believed himself incapable of such a thing. But the LORD said he would be with Jeremiah. He would not only guide him; he would also protect him. Jeremiah then trusted God and began this work.

We can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes it is easy to doubt ourselves and believe that we are incapable of something. We may think that God couldn’t use us because of x, y, and z. In reality, though, it is not by our strength or ability that we serve the LORD. It is rather him working through us. So, by doubting ourselves, we are doubting the ability of the LORD to work through us. Jeremiah also did not believe himself capable of being called, but nonetheless he was. The LORD called many sinners such as David, Jonah, Paul, and countless others. So, do not doubt yourself. The LORD is capable of calling you and through him, you are capable of answering that call.

Another interesting thing found in these three chapters is the fact that God warned the people of their ways. He did not make them guess. Sometimes when we are upset with someone, we think that the offending party should be able to figure out why we are upset with them. God did not do this. He used Jeremiah to tell them what they were doing and what they needed to do. If I really think about this, I think of how generous and caring this act is. Even though the Israelites were completely in the wrong and should know what it was they were doing, God still communicated with them. He did not keep them in the dark even though they were ignoring him.

It is interesting also that it seems like the main thing that God is asking of the Israelites in these chapters is for their repentance. Through Jeremiah, he tells them that they should not continue on in their ways as though they are doing no wrong. They should acknowledge what they are doing and repent. They needed to accept that they were wrong.

It can be hard though to admit when we are wrong. By doing this our pride is injured and we have to humble ourselves. It is far easier to keep doing what we were doing and act like we are in the clear. This, however, is not right. We need to admit when we are wrong. Through doing so, we can grow and mature.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 4-6 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Growing Sin

Zephaniah 1-3

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The book of Zephaniah is quite short, but it is full of descriptive language. It recounts the vision given to Zephaniah in the time of King Josiah’s reign. This prophecy paints a colorful picture of the price that must be paid for sin.

Sin is not something that we can pretend has never happened. If we deliberately continue living a life filled with sin, it will eventually catch up with us. To maybe understand this a bit better, I was reminded of our physical wear and tear. For those that play sports or enjoy physical activity, you may know that these pastimes can result in injury. The injury may start out as a minor sprain or cut, but we keep going rather than caring for this injury. It is inconvenient to allow something that seems so minor to hold us back from doing what we want. So eventually this minor sprain gets worse or that unattended cut gets infected. Slowly something that was in our grasp to fix becomes a bigger problem.

Sin is also like this. At first, we may stray a bit as a mistake, but then we slowly get lured in. “What difference will it make if I do this one more time”, we may ask ourselves. But slowly the minor problem turns into something bigger as we continue to turn our backs on God. Slowly this sin, whatever it may be, will eat at us. We will have to face the consequences that sin has left in its wake.

Just like in Zephaniah, one day, the LORD will eradicate the sin of this world. It will be good to one day be in a world without sin or pain. And thankfully, God has given us the possibility to be reconciled to him. We do not have to allow sin to rule our life. We can turn to God and he will help us fight temptation. We just must trust in him. In chapter 2 of Zephaniah, God summoned Judah to repent. He did not want these people to be lost to their sin. He wanted them to turn to him, so that they could be sheltered. He gave them a chance as he has given us one. He wants us to take refuge in the shelter he has lovingly offered.

Just as a government wishes for its citizens to abide by the law, the LORD wishes for us to turn to him. However, when those citizens rebel against those guiding principles, they must face the consequences of their actions. We, however, must make the choice to live for him. We must enter that shelter that our heavenly Father provides.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=zephaniah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Jeremiah (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Take Action

2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-45

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Josiah was only eight years old when he became king, yet he still did what was right. This was unlike many of the other kings that ruled in Jerusalem. We are told in these chapters that this young and inexperienced king did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

It is amazing how zealous King Josiah was. He was truly grieved when he discovered, from the reading of the Book of Law, how far his people had strayed. He tore his clothes and audibly wept. I feel like this should inspire modern day Christians. It seems as though evil has become an ordinary thing that we see happen every day. We have news stories of murders, burglaries, and other reports of violence and suffering flash across our phones on a daily basis. Does this evil pain us the way the evil of Jerusalem pained Josiah? Or have we grown numb to this constant occurrence?

Not only did this pain Josiah, it also sparked a change. King Josiah did something with this revelation. He tore down the high places and idols built to glorify and worship false gods. He sought to destroy the things in Jerusalem that went against the LORD. He completed this quest with passion. He wanted Jerusalem to again turn to the LORD.

This should also inspire us. It is one step to see what is happening, but it is another to take action. What are we doing to combat the darkness? There is so much pain in this world. How are we being proactive?  It is easy to become complacent, but we must aspire to do all that we can as Josiah did. Josiah is an example of someone that truly sought the LORD.

Because of Josiah’s heart and his commitment, the LORD promised him that he would not see the destruction of Jerusalem. Josiah, however, was eventually killed in battle. This came about, though, because he did not heed the warning which God had sent him. We need to constantly look to the LORD and seek him as Josiah tried to do during his reign.

Therefore, let us allow the things we see to inspire us to also seek change. Let us, as Christians, be a city on a hill and reach out to the hungry, wounded, and lost. Even opening the door for someone or buying someone’s coffee in the drive-thru behind us can make another person’s day. This life can seem difficult at times, so let us be a light that keeps the creeping darkness at bay in the lives of many people. Josiah did not only grieve for the state of Jerusalem, he took action to better it. In the same way we should not be satisfied with only grieving for our world. We too, like Josiah, should seek to be the difference that we wish to see in this world.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+22-23%3B+2+Chronicles+34-35&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Zephaniah 1-3 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

A Price to Pay

Nahum 1-3

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These three chapters make up the entire book of Nahum. At the beginning of this book we are told that it is the vision Nahum was given. This vision prophesied the downfall of the wicked city of Nineveh.  The language in this book is very vivid and paints a terrifying picture of the price that those in Nineveh were to pay.

God had been patient with Nineveh, but as Chapter 1 (v.3) reads, “The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” The people of Nineveh had for too long relished in the ways of the flesh. The LORD could no longer tolerate the filth that they spread.

If you may recall, this is not the first time that we are introduced to the people of Nineveh in the Old Testament. A previous book, Jonah, describes how the people of Nineveh had before turned against the LORD. Eventually Jonah made it to Nineveh and told them of what God planned to do because of their wickedness. The people of Nineveh repented of their ways and the LORD preserved them. However, in Nahum, we learn that the people of Nineveh had again turned from the LORD.

An interesting part of this event is how it would have been in the grasp of the people of Nineveh to avoid such a fate. Chapter 1 even talks of how we can look to the LORD in times of trouble. It tells of his goodness and his care for those that trust in him. If only the people of Nineveh had continued to turn to the LORD rather than to sin.

Sometimes, though, it can be easier to turn away from the LORD. When we turn toward him, there are many tempting things of the flesh that we have to turn away from. Taking part in these sinful acts is not usually difficult on our part. It is easy to sin. However, the consequences that follow that sin are usually never easy. Our sin creates many issues for us in life.

This can be paralleled to how we use our time on a daily basis. Watching another episode of our favorite show on Netflix may be easier than getting work done, but in the long run, which one counts? Watching tv may feel good in the moment, but as we look back on our day, we will feel less accomplished and possibly even stressed because we may feel behind on our work. If we had worked hard at the start, we would have avoided the stress and been left with a feeling of accomplishment.

So, if we initially put in the effort to turn to the Lord and trust in him, he will be our refuge. We will be able to avoid some of the heartache and discipline that would have followed us if we took the easy way out and fell into temptation. That does not mean, though, that if we follow the Lord, we will avoid all kinds of trouble. On the contrary, there will always be storms that we face in this life. If we turn to the Lord, though, we will have a rock to stand firm on during these storms. We will not be blown away by the heavy winds.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nahum+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 as we continue the story of God’s people in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Problem with Pride

2 Chronicles 32-33

2 Chronicles 32 25 NIV sgl

There are many lessons that we can learn from reading these chapters in the Bible. One of these lessons is that a proud heart can cause much trouble. For both Hezekiah and Manasseh this was an issue. Hezekiah did not want to credit the LORD, while Manasseh disregarded the LORD.

It is easy for us too to fall into this. There are times where we pray for guidance. However, once we receive the guidance we asked for, we neglect to go back to God and we just continue with our lives. We do not take the time to acknowledge the LORD’s hand in what was done and we do not do so until we feel we are again in need of him. It is easy for us to forget what he has done. The reality too, is that sometimes we like to think that we found the answers on our own. However, we would not have been capable of finding such answers without God. This situation is similar to Hezekiah when he allowed his heart to be proud and did not credit God with the successes of Jerusalem. He wanted to receive the glory that was owed to the LORD.

Other times, though, we may be able to better relate to Manasseh. During these times, we may be in outright rebellion toward God as Manasseh was. We want to do what we want. We may feel as though we do not need to listen to God because we are proud and think that we know best. We may say, “I know what I am doing.” That is until we receive a wake-up call and realize that we were not so wise in our thoughts and actions. We come to understand that we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. What a humbling experience this can be for our proud hearts!

This actually reminds me of a time when I was packing for a several month stent of studying abroad in Ireland. I had limited space, so I was trying to pack as lightly as possible. Because of this, I disregarded my mother’s advice to pack a small towel. I thought I was being smart. I will just get a towel when I get over there. “I know what I am doing”, I thought. This disregard for guidance offered to me by someone older and wiser than me resulted in me having to use a t-shirt as a towel for several days. Turns out that securing a towel in an unfamiliar country is not always so easy.

While this example is small in comparison, I think it shows how easily we can turn to ourselves rather than to others, and more specifically God. Even though the downfall of both Hezekiah and Manasseh were great, God forgave them when they repented. Because of the love our God has for us and the sacrifice of his son on the cross, we have the ability to be reconciled to him. That truly is something to be thankful for.

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+32-33&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Nahum 1-3 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan