Wise Final Instructions for the Best Outcome

Hebrews 13

When children finish high school, and they go off to college or to live on their own for the first time, those frenzied final weeks before leaving are usually a flurry of activities.  To-do lists are checked off and then added to, last minute shopping trips become a daily occurrence, and packing everything needed seems an impossible task.  Finally, the day arrives, and the slightly panicked parents are often confronted with this stark realization:  did I prepare them sufficiently for the challenges they will face in life?  And so ensues final reminders, gentle warnings, and many sentences starting with “Don’t forget,” or “Remember.”  The parents want the best experience for their children at college and in life.

The writer of Hebrews also desires the best outcome for his dear readers, his spiritual children, as he finishes his letter.  Of course, that best outcome is eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Thus, Hebrews 13 concludes with straightforward instruction to reach this prize.

Consider the direct instructions found in verses 1-7, and the reasons WHY these instructions are important.  

  • “Keep on loving each other as brothers”
  • “Do not neglect hospitality to strangers—(WHY?)—”for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
  • “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are badly treated—(WHY?) – since you yourselves also are in the body.”
  •  “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; – (WHY?) – for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.”
  • Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; – (WHY?) – for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever abandon you.”
  • “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; – (WHY?) – considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith.”

Verse 17 goes hand in hand with verse 7.  “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, – (WHY?) – because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Hebrews 13:8 can be a stand-alone statement and beloved promise, easy to memorize (and it should be) and underlined in your Bible.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

What an assurance to us that Jesus has not changed and will not change—he is our Savior and coming King.  Perhaps the writer felt a plain statement of our basic hope was warranted after his beginning list of directives. 

Building on that simple reassurance, verse 9 warns the early Christians and us today, not to “be carried away by varied and strange teachings,” just as parents might advise their departing children—stay true to your foundation, the principles of your upbringing.  It is firm, it is solid, it will keep you grounded. 

Now, remember our reading from Hebrews 10 a few days ago. 

“But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:12-14)

Continuing in Hebrews 13, verses 15-16 should be OUR response for this sacrifice. 

 “Through Him then, let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Our Salvation Gift from God:

Jesus—ONE SACRIFICE for all time

Our Response:

CONTINUAL SACRIFICE of

  • Praise
  • Doing good
  • Sharing

As the end of verse 16 says, “for with such SACRIFICES God is pleased.”

The writer concludes with a benediction or ending prayer in verses 20 and 21 that sums up his thoughts in this chapter. 

“Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

This prayer serves as the perfect final reminder for young adults off to college, and for each one of us. 

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 43-44 and Hebrews 13

The Christian Race

Hebrews 12

The 2020 Summer Olympics, (held one year later in Tokyo, Japan due to the Pandemic) were recently completed.  This major international multi-sport event is held every four years. 

As we consider Hebrews 12, the setting of a great sports stadium can be imagined.  Verse 1 talks about the great cloud of witnesses.  The ancient Greek word for cloud in this verse was a figure of speech for a large group.  These superheroes listed in chapter 11 and down through the ages are witnesses TO US of faith and endurance.   Just as a high school gymnasium has mounted pictures of past all-state athletes with a listing of their sports accomplishments to inspire the current sports players, so we can picture our Faith Superheroes encircling us and cheering us on. 

Verse 1 continues, instructing us to throw off every hindrance “and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Here we see the sports analogy clearly stated—run the race set before us.  A runner wouldn’t compete in bulky clothes that carry extra weight and slow his time.  We too need to lay aside conflicting interests that take us away from our “run with God.”  We also must be wary of “the sin which so easily entangles us.”  Habits or actions that become so addictive, we don’t give them a second thought, can trap us like a spider web.  How many times do we pick up our phone instead of praying or offering God praise?

Instead, verse 2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.”  What a beautiful description of Jesus we don’t often contemplate.  Jesus, our ultimate superhero, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Every runner pictures his/her victory, and so we keep our eyes on Jesus, our coming king, bringing the prize of the kingdom with him.  Jesus saw the “joy” to come as he suffered unimaginable horrors on the cross.  Our faith race has twists and turns, challenges and difficulties, but when we picture the end result, as Jesus did, we will “not grow weary and lose heart.”  (verse 3)

Going back to the 2020 Summer Olympics, according to Wikipedia, “the Games featured 339 events in 33 different sports, encompassing a total of 50 disciplines.”  A discipline in the Olympics is a branch of a sport consisting of one or more events.  For example, skiing is a sport, while cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are disciplines. 

And discipline is also the necessary foundation for any sport and athlete.  An athlete must consistently practice the fundamentals of his/her sport to improve and build their skill in it. 

The “discipline of the Lord” mentioned repeatedly in verses 5-11 coincides with this thought, in that it is not necessarily punishment, but rather repeated preparation and endurance for our walk/race of faith.  God’s motivation for this is His love for us.  “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”  (verse 10b)

Verses 12 and 13 build on this thought, urging our Christian conditioning, just as an injured athlete is reconditioned to compete again through a specific rehabilitation program. 

Then, verse 14 urges us to “pursue peace with all men.”  Again, referencing the Olympics, we know one of its primary goals is to promote peace through fair play and friendship in its competitions.   This Olympic goal of peace is actually another discipline of the Christian walk/race.  The Hebrews writer warns us against bitterness, and he uses Esau as a prime example.  (verses 16-17)

Finally, verses 18-29 contrast the time of Moses on Mt Sinai, with the coming kingdom of God.  Read verses 22-24 aloud with all the expression and emotion you can muster.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,  to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

Verses 25-27 give a final warning in this chapter, and we end with this concluding motivation.

 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let’s show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

Gratitude, service, reverence, awe.  These “disciplines” will keep you in the Christian race, ever striving for that eternal prize at the finish line. 

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 41-42 and Hebrews 12

Superheroes of Faith

Hebrews 11

In my job as a school librarian, I often get asked where the superhero books are located.  Spiderman and and Ironman are favorites of my kindergarten and first grade students.  These characters possess superpowers that amaze their readers.

Since Covid-19 unfortunately appeared in our world, signs started sprouting up in front of hospitals or health-care centers, stating “Superheroes Work Here.”  It was a way to honor and recognize the life-saving daily work of our health-care providers fighting this unwelcome virus.  These individuals labored long hours, days, weeks, months through challenging and heartbreaking circumstances.

In both examples, superheroes use their powers to help make the world a better place.  In Hebrews 11, superheroes used GOD’S POWER to face the world’s challenges, all the while anticipating the “world to come” that God had promised them. 

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith chapter of the Bible, and when you read it, you quickly understand why.  It begins with a beautiful definition or statement of what faith is—“the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Let those words sink in.  Meditate on them in conjunction with your life circumstances and trials.  This singular verse brings so much reassurance and comfort. 

Verses two and three continue with an explanation and introduction to verses 4-40, the Faith “Hall of Fame” of the Bible.  Read these verses carefully, slowly, reverently. 

“For by it the people of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.”

“By faith”, “by faith”, “by faith”—these two words are repeated over and over throughout the chapter to introduce God’s superheroes and to justify their inclusion in this passage with an explanation of what they did “by faith.”  Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets.  Their stories are inspiring, uplifting, encouraging, HEROIC—because their faith, unfaltering in God and His promises, was the foundation of their lives.

These superheroes, “by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.  Hebrews 11:33-38

As verse 38 said, the world was not worthy of them!

Going back to Hebrews 10:32-34, the writer reminds his readers of their sufferings after coming to faith.    “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better and lasting possession.” It all ties together—the Old Testament heroes, the New Testament heroes, and faithful believers down through the ages. 

The writer’s counsel is this: “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.  For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.”  Hebrews 10: 35-37 NASB

The superheroes of Hebrews 11, the Faith chapter, “gained approval through their faith, (but) did not receive what was promised.” (verse 39) They are resting in their graves, waiting for their reward.  We are waiting, too. 

That same reward can be ours.  Have you accepted and follow God’s plan of salvation, so you can receive this reward God has waiting for you, a reward for your faith?  I pray you have–I pray you will. 

“Because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”  Hebrews 11:40

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 39-40 and Hebrews 11

One Perfect Donor

Hebrews 10

Have you ever known someone who needs kidney dialysis to live?  Your kidneys act as very efficient filters for ridding the body of waste and toxic substances, and they return vitamins and other vital substances to the bloodstream.  You need dialysis if your kidneys no longer remove enough waste and fluid from your blood to keep you healthy.  Dialysis is usually required if your kidney function is down to 10-15 percent. 

Hemodialysis is a procedure where a dialysis machine and a special filter called an artificial kidney are used to clean your blood.  For most patients, dialysis is needed three times a week for approximately four hours each session.  Most importantly, a dialysis patient needs hemodialysis for the rest of his/her life unless a kidney transplant is received.  A dialysis patient continues to live, but not what we would call a “quality” life. 

The example of kidney dialysis reminds me of verse 11 of our Hebrews passage today, chapter 10.  “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”  The Hebraic priests daily performed their duties, offering up animal sacrifices on an altar for the various sins of the people.  But the cycle never ended because God’s people then, like us today, continued to sin.  Sin needed to be removed by their offered sacrifices just as kidney dialysis removes waste from a patient’s body. 

In truth, the sacrifices were simply a reminder of the people’s sin.  This is explained in verse one of this chapter.  “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” Heb. 10:1 NIV

But Hebrews 10:12-14 NASB continues: “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet.  For by one offering He has PERFECTED for all time those who are sanctified.”

Praise to our Almighty, loving and gracious God.  And to His Son, Jesus, our Saviour, the sacrificial Lamb who died for each one of us, once and for all. Verse 14 says Jesus’ death on the cross made we, who have accepted that sacrifice and entered into a relationship with him, perfect!  Perfect!  Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we appear pure and without sin to God.

“Now where there is forgiveness of these things, an offering for sin is no longer required.”  Heb. 10:18 NASB. When we sin, we ask forgiveness of God, and through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are forgiven.  There is NO NEED for daily offering of animal sacrifices by priests. 

What then should be our response to this marvelous covenant (verse 16) God has given us? 

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

  • Draw near, fully assured of our purity before God
  • Hold fast to our hope in God
  • Stimulate one another in love and good deeds
  • Assemble together regularly
  • Encourage one another

Remember our introduction about kidney dialysis.  When a dialysis patient receives the gift of a kidney transplant, from a donor, the regular three times a week dialysis ends. New life begins for the kidney recipient, a life of freedom to enjoy their loved ones, to travel, to appreciate each day.  A kidney recipient is no longer tied down to the once necessary dialysis regimen. 

Regular dialysis of the Hebrew people’s sins was no longer necessary with the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.  He was their donor; he is OUR DONOR! 

Today, when we accept that gift through repentance and baptism, a cleansed and new life is “transplanted” within us.  Praise God for the freedom we have in Christ.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  Romans 8:2 NASB

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Paula Kirkpatrick lives in Minnesota with her husband, and is a wife, mom, grandma, school librarian, and most of all, a child of God.

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 37-38 and Hebrews 10

A New and Improved Covenant

Jeremiah 33 & 34 and Hebrews 8

Following God and obeying His will does not mean that we will have a life free of problems as we can see from so many of the stories in the Bible. It does mean that God is with us as we go through the hard times. Sometimes life is harder for us when we tell others what God wants them to hear.  As we read Jeremiah 33 & 34, we see that this is true for Jeremiah. Jeremiah is still imprisoned by King Zedekiah and Jeremiah is still obeying and trusting in God and telling them what God has told him to say. In Jeremiah 33:2-3a it says “This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to create it, He whose name is the Lord: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you,‘” Isn’t it amazing that the God who created the universe wants us to call out to Him, and it’s equally amazing that He WILL answer. We all have hard times that we go through, but we can call out to our Father and He will walk with us through the hard times. But He wants us (and the Israelites & Judeans) to know that there is a bright future when all the hardships will be over and we will live in joy and peace.

It says in Jeremiah 33:11b “Give thanks to the Lord of armies, for the Lord is good, for His mercy is everlasting,” God is a good God and His mercies are everlasting, and He has a great future in store for His children. God reminds them that a day is coming when His word will be fulfilled. In Jeremiah 33:14-16 we have a prophecy about Jesus and it says; “Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch of David sprout; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety; and this is the name by which it will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’

In Chapter 34 God tells Jeremiah to tell King Zedekiah that Babylon will come in and take over and he will meet King Nebuchadnezzar face to face, but he says that the king would not die by the sword but that he would die in peace. As we learn in the rest of the chapter that is exactly what happened.

We have all seen commercials about something that is “New and Improved,” which means that something was not as good as it should have been or there would be no need for improvement. Hebrews 8 is all about a new covenant that has been established through Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, and now our high priest. The reason there had to be a new covenant was because the first one was not faultless, but the new covenant is. Hebrews 8:1 “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, without fault.” Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, without fault or blemish.  We have read some of these verses already because they were taken from Jeremiah 31:33. Anytime a verse is used in both the Old and New Testament, we should pay attention to what it says. Hebrews 8:10-11.  “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.” God is constantly working in our lives because He is a God of love, He loves His children, and He wants to be our God, and for us to be His people.  

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 33-34 and Hebrews 8

Better Days are Coming

Jeremiah 31 & 32 and Hebrews 7

Do you feel like many of us, and you want to hear some good news? I’m thinking that the Judeans may have been feeling this way. Can you remember times that were pure joy? I used to love summers, no school, visits with family, church camps, and family vacations. It was the best time of the year! Looking back we forget the bad times and just remember the good days. The chapters of Jeremiah 30-34 are referred to as the book of encouragement, it was the good news after all the doom and gloom. We get to read about the brighter days that are coming for Israel and Judah together again. There are better days ahead.

The Bible is a book about us having a relationship with God. Jeremiah is about a restored relationship with God. When we have a relationship with someone, we want to spend time with them, we talk to them, we ask them questions because we want to know everything about them. This is the kind of relationship God wants with His children. Jeremiah 31:1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”  And in verse 3 it says “The Lord appeared to him long ago, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you out with kindness.” God loves us, with an everlasting love but he allows us to make the choice if we will return His love. Not only is He a God who loves, but He is also a God who judges. We have to decide if we will return His love, seek Him, and follow Him. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” That is His deepest desire, that we be His people. At this time the nation of Israel and Judah were separate, Israel had been in exile for years, and Judah was going to be captured by Babylon in the near future.

In Jeremiah 32 King Zedekiah has had Jeremiah shut up in the palace guard prison because the king wanted Jeremiah to quit prophesying that they would be captured by Babylon. But this is what God told Jeremiah to tell His people and it is exactly what will happen. God tells Jeremiah, the children of Israel and Judah have done evil for years, they have turned their back on me, they have followed other gods, and they have burned their children as sacrifices to Moloch. They have done evil things. But when they call out to God, He will bring them back to their land and verse 38 once again says “And they shall be My people, and I will be their God!” When we call out to God, He always accepts us back.

Hebrews 7 is about a new covenant, in the first covenant the Levites were the priests for Israel. Jesus was not a Levite he was from the line of Judah. He was made our high priest not because of his lineage but because he led a perfect life that made him worthy of being a priest. Hebrews 7: 26-28 “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; who has no daily need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all time when He offered up Himself.For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever.” When Jesus, our High Priest, returns to set up the kingdom, our better days will be here to stay. What a glorious day that will be.

-Sherry Alcumbrack


Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to here at BibleGateway.com – Jeremiah 31 & 32 and Hebrews 7

Seek and Find

Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

Have your parents ever planned a big surprise for the family. Maybe a big trip that everyone is excited about and looking forward to. They will do whatever is possible to make it happen. My mother would always say “Lord’s willing” on the off chance that something unforeseen would happen. With God, we don’t have to worry because if he says something will happen, it WILL happen. The Israelites should know this by now, but just like us, sometimes it’s hard to get things through to them.

Jeremiah 29 is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. We all know Jeremiah 29:11, it’s on lots of items from shirts to artwork, because it has a great message, but continue to read on, the whole passage is just as meaningful. It’s like a love poem written to His children. It starts in verse 10 when He tell them he will bring them back after 70 years, just like He promised. Jeremiah 29: 11-14 says “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”

Even after all that happened and the fact that they had followed after other gods, the one true God had not given up on His people and He had good plans ahead for them. They just needed to trust Him. We need to all learn to lean on and trust God during the times when we may feel like we are exiled and in captivity. God has good plans for His children. But we have to do our part, it says that we need to call on Him, seek Him, and search for Him with all of our heart. If we do that, He says “I will let Myself be found by you.” He is going to restore them and bring them back to their promised land. These chapters deal with the future prosperity of Israel that God has promised them. In Jeremiah 30:24b it says “Until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this.”

We can rest assured that God’s promises will happen, just as He has said, and one of His promises is that He will give us a hope and a future. In Hebrews 6, we learn of better things that are ahead for all believers, we have assurance of our hope of salvation.  It tells us that Abraham waited for the promise of God to be fulfilled just like we must and it tells us to be imitators of those who persevered through faith and patience who will inherit the promises.  Jesus has gone before us as the first fruits of those resurrected to eternal life and is in heaven acting as our high priest. A better day is coming for all of us when Jesus returns to this earth to set up his Father’s kingdom.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

A Tale of Two Prophets

Jeremiah 27 & 28 and Hebrews 5

In Jeremiah 27 & 28 we have a meeting of two prophets. It’s kind of like Good Prophet/Bad Prophet. One prophet, Jeremiah, was sent by God to warn the children of Judah that if they continue along the path they are on, things will not go well with them. In fact, it says that the Lord tells them in chapter 27:5 “I have made the earth, mankind, and the animals which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have handed all these lands over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have also given him the animals of the field to serve him.” They have had years to make a decision to change and they didn’t so now it’s time to pay the piper. Jeremiah also tells them that the vessels in the temple will be taken away to Babylon and they will remain there until God brings them back. Verse 22 says “They will be brought to Babylon and will be there until the day I visit them,” declares the Lord. “Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.” Now to be clear, Jeremiah is not just making up prophecies on his own. He just tells the people what God has told him to say.

At the same time that Jeremiah is explaining what is going to take place, a false prophet, Hananiah, arises. He is telling them things that are more pleasant for the people to hear. They do not have to change their evil ways, and they do not have to worry because God will not allow the Babylonians to take over and cart off their important vessels. So, Jeremiah and Hananiah have words and Jeremiah tells the people that they will know which prophet was sent from God by what happens.

Then there is a showdown in chapter 28: 15 & 16 “Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah: the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘Behold, I am going to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you spoke falsely against the Lord.’” Hananiah died in the seventh month of that year. God has a way of dealing with people who try to go against his Word and plans. They do not prosper. And in the end everything that Jeremiah prophesied happened.  

Hebrews 5 ties in so well because the writer of Hebrews is writing to the early Christians and explaining how much better they have it now and how Christianity is better than Judaism in so many ways. He explains that the priests were called by God back in the day, and Jesus was also called by God.  Hebrews 5:4-5 “And no one takes the honor for himself, but receives it when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was. So too, Christ did not glorify Himself in becoming a high priest, but it was He who said to Him, ‘You are My Son, Today I have fathered You.'” Jesus did not choose to be the Son of God, he did not ask for this job, in fact, Jesus prayed for God to deliver him from death but he obeyed the will of God and died on the cross. He lived a perfect life so that he could be our sacrifice and we can be forgiven for our sins. And those who accept and follow Jesus will receive eternal life.

Just like those listening to Jeremiah, the early Christians and us today, we become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:14 sums it all up for us. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.” We need to constantly be aware that there is good and evil in the world, and we have to practice distinguishing between the two. It may not be popular and what the world wants to hear but as Paul said in Acts, “we have to obey God and not man.”

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 27 & 28 and Hebrews 5

Enter into My Rest

Jeremiah 25-26 and Hebrews 4

In Chapter 25 & 26 of Jeremiah, he continues prophesying to the people of Judah about what is going to happen to them. It sounds to me like he is getting a little irritated with them. Have you ever heard “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times” from your parents? He says that he has been talking to them for 23 years but they will not listen to him. Not only has he been talking to them but God has sent prophets to them for years and they refuse to listen. He is telling them that they have a choice to make. He says in Chapter 25:5&6 “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” God has always given us a choice, which is to choose good or evil, the choice is ours. But he is hoping that we choose to turn from evil and do good, and if we do, he will always forgive us.  But on the flip side, he says, if the children of Judah refuse to listen they will go through hard times and captivity that will last for years.

The prophet Jeremiah could have lied to the Judean people like the other prophets during that time and told them what they wanted to hear, and his life would have gone easier (perhaps for a time), but he did the hard thing and he obeyed God and told them what God wanted them to hear. The people did not like what they heard and they wanted to kill Jeremiah. He put his trust in God knowing that he might be killed. He trusted God with his life and trusted that what God purposed in his life would happen. He says in 26:14-15 “But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and its inhabitants; for truly the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words so that you hear them.” He knows what Paul tells us in Acts 5:29b “We must obey God rather than men.”

Hebrews 4 seems to go hand in hand with the chapters in Jeremiah. The Israelites before them, and then the children of Judah were not able to enter into God’s rest because of their disobedience. We are invited to live our lives in such a way that we will be allowed to live in God’s rest. The children of Judah needed prophets and priests to help them to have a relationship with God, but we do not have to go to the synagogue to have our sins forgiven or go to the town square to listen to the prophets. It says in Hebrews in verses 14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” God’s rest is a life that is filled with the knowledge that God is in control and we will trust Him no matter what hardships we may go through. If we would like to enter into God’s rest, all we have to do is accept the salvation that God has provided to us through Jesus and we are free to enter into God’s rest for eternity.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 25-26 and Hebrews 4

The United States of Gomorrah

Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

After all of the doom and gloom we’ve read so far in Jeremiah, in 23: 5-6 we read a promise of the coming messiah,  “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord our Righteousness.”

This is clearly a promise of Jesus, the heir to David’s throne.  Notice in particular the name attributed to the messiah here, “The Lord our Righteousness.”  This was especially important because the people of Judah were wicked.  They needed some external righteousness, because they weren’t righteous themselves.

In fact, in Jeremiah 23: 14 we read, “And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible.  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness.  They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gamorrah.”

The very people who were supposed to be the most righteous, and who were supposed to be pointing others to God, were living a lie.  I don’t know if the adultery was physical adultery or spiritual adultery, but either way, they weren’t living the Godly lives they tried to portray.  They were living a lie.  We would call them hypocrites.  And not only that, they were promoting sin in the land so that the people were as bad as Gomorrah in God’s eyes.

When I look around at churches in our country, I see whole denominations who claim to be Christian, actively promoting wickedness.  As I look at our country as a whole, I can’t help but see many parallels to Judah in Jeremiah’s day.  We seem to be the United States of Gomorrah.  In fact, our wickedness is getting so bad that it seems like God either has to punish our nation or He will need to apologize to Judah for punishing them.  Because it seems like we are just as bad.

Today’s reading in Hebrews ties right in.  In Hebrews 3:12-13, we read, “See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3 goes on to give the example of the Israelites whom Moses led out of Egypt.  When they rebelled against God, their bodies were strewn across the desert.  (They couldn’t rest on their laurels.)

And this brings us to our application for today.  

Fortunately, we aren’t justified before God because of our own righteousness – because we could never measure up on our own.  It is by grace we are saved, through faith.  Faith in “The Lord, our Righteousness.”  And that faith will produce works.

Just like Jeremiah was grieved by the sin that surrounded him, if we are in tune with God, we will be grieved by the sin that surrounds us.  It is imperative that we turn wholeheartedly to God.  And it is critical that we don’t turn away.  And because we are surrounded by such wickedness, we must actively encourage fellow believers to seek God wholeheartedly too.  And if we have lived a God-centered life so far, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

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