God of Justice

Jeremiah 51-52

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As we finish the book of Jeremiah, we are reminded again that God is a God of justice.

 

King after king had done “evil in the eyes of the Lord” – and the people did too.  Finally, in Jeremiah 52:3, we’re told, “It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end, he thrust them from his presence.”  So Jerusalem was destroyed.  The temple was destroyed.  King Zedekiah was forced to watch as his sons were slaughtered before his eyes, then he was blinded.  Then, the king and 3,023 of the few remaining survivors were carried into exile to Babylon.  What a depressing end to Israel’s autonomy.

 

God had used Babylon to punish Judah for her sins.  To people of Judah, it hadn’t seemed right – that God would use a country even more wicked than Judah to punish Judah.  But the truth remained, Judah needed to be punished.

 

I’ll pause here and mention – as I read Jeremiah, I see many similarities between Judah back then, and our country today.  We too were founded on Godly principles.  We too have forsaken God as a nation.  We too are arrogant and proud.  And I believe that we too deserve God’s judgement.  This is a sobering thought.

 

Back to our story…

Because God is indeed a God of justice, we see in Jeremiah 51 that God is going to punish Babylon too.  In Jeremiah 51:49, we’re told, “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.”  And later, in 51:56b, we read, “For the Lord is a God of retribution; he will repay in full.”

 

This might be a consolation to those few from Israel that survived, but it wasn’t a consolation for those who died.  This reminds me of Revelation 13:10, which says, “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”  We still have this to anticipate.

 

We have to remember that this life is not our ultimate reward – it is just a proving ground to determine who will live forever with God, and who will be eternally destroyed.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 1 Corinthians 5:10.

 

God is still a God of justice.  Fortunately for us, He’s also a forgiving God.  I challenge you today to take advantage of His forgiveness, as we’re reminded in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

Steve Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 51-52

Tomorrow’s reading will be Lamentations 1:1-3:36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Deceived by Pride

Jeremiah 49-50

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More sin, more judgment, more destruction, and a little more restoration – just like yesterday – only the names have been changed.  Yesterday we read about the judgment God was planning against Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab.  Today, we read what was in store for Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and the big one – Babylon.  God saw their sins and would be bringing judgment and destruction to their lands.

There is one sin that is mentioned again and again.

“Why do you boast of your valleys, boast of your valleys so fruitful? O unfaithful daughter, you trust in your riches and say, ‘Who will attack me?'” (Jeremiah 49:4  NIV).

“The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you” (Jeremiah 49:16 NIV).

“See, I am against you, O arrogant one” (Jeremiah 50:31 NIV).

It may come by many names – boasting, pride, arrogance – but every time it is a sin worthy of judgment.

How could the pride of your heart be deceiving you?

A few weeks ago I was preparing a devotion for posting and I was looking for a background photograph for a verse referring to Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chronicles 32:25).  I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for – but figured I would know it when I saw it.  So I typed in that I wanted to see photos of pride and I started scrolling.  and scrolling.  and scrolling.  You of course are smarter than I and know what I ran across – over and over again.  I am pretty sure there were thousands upon thousands of options for gay pride – rainbows, couples, signs, and more rainbows, a lot of rainbows (when did they get to hijack the symbol of God’s promises?).  There was also the occasional national flag or beaming, proud parent pictured with her perfect child.  But, there was NOTHING there to indicate that pride is a sin, a deadly sin worthy of judgment.  Finally, I opted for the proud peacock as my photo background and shook my head at dismay over what we have become – a culture that celebrates and basks in pride.  Are we any different from the countries of Jeremiah’s day?  Arrogant, boastful, flaunting sin and deceived by pride.  Can we expect anything less than what Jeremiah foretold for these sinful nations?

What about on a personal level?  It can be overwhelmingly depressing to think about trying to fix all the evils of a nation – but what can I work at fixing about myself?  Where do I let pride puff me up so I no longer care for others or about what God says?  How is my use of social media contributing to the spiraling problem of pride?  How is pride connected to so many other sins?

It is time to see our pride and sin for what it is – and treat it as the deadly gangrene it is.  Don’t be led astray and deceived by pride.  Jump down from your high horse and humble yourself.  You aren’t as much as you think you are.  For God has promised judgment for the proud and arrogant.  He has also promised restoration and forgiveness for those who humble themselves  – “If  my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – Jeremiah 49-50

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Jeremiah with chapters 51-52 as we continue searching God’s Word in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Discipline with Justice – then Restoration

Jeremiah 46-48

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Today we remember that God is not just the God of the Jews – but the God of the world – all the nations.  And as God has watched the sins of these nations – so will He exact discipline on these nations.  Jeremiah writes what God tells him to write regarding the coming destruction that God will oversee and orchestrate against Israel’s neighbors.

Jeremiah uses vivid imagery to describe these events:

“The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood.”  (Jeremiah 46:10 NIV)

“Moab is disgraced for she is shattered.” (Jeremiah 48:20 NIV)

His descriptions show not only how scary and total the destruction will be – but also what a sad state of affairs these societies had become.  The most powerful passage that got my attention was in the message against the Philistines, “Terrified fathers run madly, without a backward glance at their helpless children.” (Jeremiah 47:3b NLT).  Where have the strong, brave protectors and defenders of their families gone?

We would do well to pay special attention to the passages that point to the reasons for this judgment.  All of these neighbors are being punished for their mistreatment of God’s chosen people, as well as for their own sins. “Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive…We have heard of Moab’s pride – her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and arrogance and the haughtiness of her heart…In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods…Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the LORD” (Jeremiah 48:7, 29, 35, 42 NIV).   How many similarities do you have to Moab – just one of the countries that would feel the burn of God’s discipline?  How do you treat God and His people?  Is your pride in check?  Where do you put your trust – in your job, your finances, your teachers, your doctors, yourself – or in God?  Do you offer your best and first time, talents and resources to God or to selfish pursuits and false gods?

After 46 verses of judgment against Moab, the final verse of chapter 48 says, “Yet, I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come.”   Hope and restoration is coming – at least for those judged worthy.  Amongst the condemnation of these chapters, Jeremiah includes a beautiful word from God for Israel as well,

But do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel.
For I will bring you home again from distant lands,
    and your children will return from their exile.
Israel[f] will return to a life of peace and quiet,
    and no one will terrorize them.
28 Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
    for I am with you,” says the Lord.
“I will completely destroy the nations to which I have exiled you,
    but I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you, but with justice;
    I cannot let you go unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46: 27-28 NLT)

God sees and will not let the guilty go unpunished.  But His deepest desire is to find and reward faithfulness in His children so He can live with them in peace.  God still judges in His love today – as a wise and caring parent.  There will yet be a time of unequaled punishment for those who appeared to get away with evil with a proud heart, relying on themselves and turning their backs on God.  This is discipline with justice.  And, then, there will be restoration and peace.  Come Lord Jesus Come – may He find us faithful.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 46-48.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 49-50 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Why are You Destroying Yourself?

Jeremiah 41-45

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Life is often not what we expect.  The last few days we have read about the Jews who went into exile to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar.  This was punishment from God for turning their backs on Him and following after their own selfish interests – false gods.  No doubt it would be very difficult to be uprooted from your homeland and all you have ever known to be taken to a foreign land – with a strange new language, foods, neighbors, rulers, homes and customs.  It would be easy to think that the ones left behind to stay in Judah were the lucky ones.  But, that would depend on how they acted.  After having just witnessed their brothers’ and sisters’ tragic deportation, you would have thought they may have learned their lesson and stuck a bit closer to God’s guidelines.  But….then you would read today’s Bible reading (Jeremiah 41-45) and find out mankind doesn’t always do the wise thing.

When Babylon invaded Jerusalem the foreign commanding officer released Jeremiah from prison and gave him the option of going to Babylon and being well cared for in a foreign land, or staying with those left behind.  He (or God) chose for him to stay behind – perhaps knowing how much the people still needed a word from the Lord – if they would listen.  Before the Babylonians left town with their captives they set up Gedaliah as governor of the land.  But just 3 months later he is assassinated by Ishmael who also kills several Babylonian soldiers, some Judeans who were loyal to Gedaliah, as well as 70 travelers who had come to worship at the burned down temple.  Next, Ishmael kidnaps the king’s daughters and others that had been under Gedaliah’s care.  Violence, treachery and strife are still rampant in the land.

It seems like a bright new start when Johanan saves the day and Ishmael runs away and the people ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do.  The people want to head to Egypt as they are scared Babylon will hear that the governor they left was killed and come to punish the whole tribe.  But they sound so brave and upright when they say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us.  Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5,6).   

Ten days later, Jeremiah tells them God says stay and He will protect you.  It should have been good news, and not too hard to follow.  But, suddenly their eloquent words mean nothing.  Because they were really hoping and thinking God would say to go.  That’s what they wanted to do – so that’s what they would do – regardless of a good speech about following God.  Suddenly, it was more convenient to call Jeremiah the liar and continue packing their bags in defiance of all God said, thus shattering the promise they had just made.

Jeremiah tells them that war, strife, famine, persecution and death will follow them to Egypt.  There is not a safe place to go to disobey God.  But off they go.  Totally disregarding God, they turned again to their false gods that would give them the answers they wanted to hear and let them go where they wanted to go and let them do what they wanted to do.

They thought they had won.  But they were actually destroying themselves (Jeremiah 44:7a NLT).  Just as Jeremiah foretold, Egypt was not a safe place.

It still happens today.  People who commit to follow God anywhere – until they decide they would rather make the rules and the map.  And, if you listen carefully to God and His Word, you can still hear Him say, “Why are you destroying yourselves?”.    Examine yourself and see if there are any ways you are breaking your commitment to God, and thus destroying yourself.  He has offered protection and hope for those who rely on Him and follow Him with their whole life.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 41-45.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 46-48 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Into Exile

2 Kings 24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36

But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36_16 NIV

Well, if yesterday’s reading was one of the most depressing passages, I guess it applies doubly today, since we read two more accounts of the Babylonian conquest of God’s holy city Jerusalem and the nation of Judah.  Bad kings, poor decisions, temple treasures plundered, men and women forced into exile, rebellion, siege ramps around Jerusalem, starvation, fleeing king captured and tortured, temple and city set on fire, officers executed, more and more exiles, governor assassinated, fleeing for safety.  God’s anger.

It’s not a pretty story.  But it is a story well worth our time to know and remember and understand.  It is such an important part of God’s story and His character.  This is the same God of today and the same God who centuries before this had saved His people out of Egypt and revealed himself to Moses as, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” (Exodus 34:6,7).  God had been patient with His people hundreds of years, but there comes a time when their unfaithfulness can no longer be overlooked or excused or explained away.  He had sent many, many prophets to warn the people and if His people would had listened and repented and turned from their wicked ways, they would have been saved from this time of judgment.  But they made their (poor) choices and there was a consequence to pay for it.  

Today, many like to focus solely on the God of compassion.  It is a beautiful picture.  And, it is true – but it is not the whole picture – or the whole truth.  It can be a fatal error to not consider the whole picture when viewing, knowing and loving God.  He is a God of compassion who is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.  Praise God!  We have benefitted from His love and compassion in many ways and at many times!  He does not always treat us as our sins deserve.  But He is just when He does punish – way back then, and today.

Did you notice that the two accounts we read today don’t end the same?  At the conclusion of the book of 2 Kings we read of the grace extended to Jehoiachin, a king from Judah who was deported to Babylon and held as a prisoner for 37 years.  The new Babylonian king not only releases him, but welcomes him to a place of honor, he eats at the king’s table and his daily needs are provided.  It is indeed a sweet ending for Jehoiachin.

The book of 2nd Chronicles was written at a later time – to remind the surviving Israelites of their history. This author knows that Jehoiachin is not the only one to experience great grace and restoration.  The years of time-out in exile in Babylon would last 70 years, as predicted by Jeremiah – and then the time would come for God to extend grace and restoration to His people, or to the remnant of believers.  The final verses of 2 Chronicles are:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22,23 NIV).  

 

God works in amazing ways towards restoration for the faithful remnant who walk with Him.  The story of God’s people does not end in exile.

Take heart.  Remember God’s character and His story.  He is a God of love and compassion – who in His perfect love, will not leave the guilty unpunished.  Be wise and pay attention to God’s Word – listen to the prophets who speak for Him.  Seek God with your whole heart and don’t follow after false gods.  God’s plan is still in progress.  It includes love and punishment.  And ultimately He is planning a time of restoration where He will dwell with the faithful remnant in His Kingdom on earth.  How will you prepare for that today?

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – 2 Kings 24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36

Tomorrow’s reading will be the three short chapters that make up the book of Habakkuk as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Not Enough

Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 & 79

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I believe today’s Bible reading ranks high among the most depressing passages of Scripture.   From the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll by King Jehoiakim which we read about yesterday to the major blows against Judah we read about today another 17 years has passed.  Jeremiah is still preaching, warning, and speaking truth for God, but very few seem to be interested.  In all, Jeremiah will have preached 39 years, his ministry reaching across the reigns of 5 kings of Judah, only one of whom truly listened to Jeremiah and had a heart for God.  If more had responded the way Josiah had, the disastrous events of today’s reading would have been avoided.  But instead, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (chosen by Nebuchadnezzar), is a weak king who lacks the courage to do things God’s way.

Unlike Jehoiakim who scorned God’s word and His prophet, Zedekiah seems to know about God and His power.  He asks Jeremiah to pray for them and he secretly asks Jeremiah what he should do.  BUT – he doesn’t do it.  And, when feeling pressure from Jeremiah’s enemies, he even gives his permission for them to mistreat him and abandon him to die in a deep, muddy pit.  Thankfully, Ebed-Melek was there to petition the king to allow them to rescue Jeremiah.  Even at Judah’s final hour, with Babylon at the city walls, God, through Jeremiah, gave Zedekiah an opportunity to save his life and his city.  He could surrender to Babylon and peacefully accept the “time-out” Judah deserved for her waywardness.  But, instead he runs from God’s plan into a tragic, tragic end for himself, his family, his advisors, his city and his country.  Do you think he regretted his decision as he was watching his sons be put to death, or as his eyes were gouged out?

Suddenly, surrendering to God’s plan doesn’t seem so hard, difficult or painful after all -considering the consequences of the alternatives.  Is there an area where you are feeling too weak, too prideful, too insignificant, too scared to follow God’s plan?  Remember, there are often painful consequences of running from God’s plan.  It’s not enough to know of God and his power and truth.  It’s not enough to ask for prayer and guidance.  You must step up and do what God wants you to do.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 38-40 and 

Psalm 74 & 79

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 24 & 25 and 2 Chronicles 36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Don’t Give Up Now

Jeremiah 35-37

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We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today!  He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular.  And, he didn’t quit!

At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers for over 20 years – warning them of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways.  Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God.  But as a nation, they don’t get it.  They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.

The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator.  Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then?  God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry.  God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV).  Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him.  And so a great project begins.  Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down.  Perhaps the people will listen.  They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot.  How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?

Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people.  One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials.  “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.

Here’s the king’s chance.  He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago.  But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better.  His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack.  Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.

Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words?  To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed.  And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive.  Totally lost.  Over a year’s work, gone.  But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first.

God’s Words are priceless.  Some will hear and respond and pass it on – to work to save themselves and their hearers  (1 Timothy 4:16).  Some will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it.  It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them.  Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word.  The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well.  Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up.  They kept at it – living, writing, sharing, reading, speaking God’s Word.  Striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath.  Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passage, Jeremiah 35-37, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 &79 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Are You All In?

Jeremiah 32-34

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The religious reformer Martin Luther once famously said: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

I thought about this quote as I was reading Jeremiah 32 today.  Jeremiah is being held in prison by Judah’s king, Zedekiah.  The city of Jerusalem was under siege by the powerful Babylonians.  To hold a city under siege means that you have it surrounded.  No one gets in, no one gets out.  More importantly, no FOOD gets in.  Hold a city under siege long enough and the people will get hungry, and some will come out voluntarily.  For those who hold out longer, they will simply starve to death, or become so weak that they are unable to fight.  It was a strategy of war that was used for thousands of years.

God had told Jeremiah the prophet to warn Zedekiah and all of Jerusalem that they were going to fall to the Babylonians, their city would be captured and destroyed.  Jeremiah had been warning them for over 2 decades.  They imprisoned him just to try to shut him up.  But here they were, surrounded by the Babylonians.  It was only a matter of time until the Kingdom of Judah would be destroyed.

So with all the doom and gloom what does God tell Jeremiah to do?  Buy a field.  Now, if you know that an enemy invader is about to completely destroy your nation does it make sense to perform a real estate transaction?  If an asteroid is headed for earth tomorrow, does it make sense to buy green bananas today?  If the Zombie Apocalypse has started, is it really a good time to order all of your Christmas presents early on Amazon?  If the world is going to go to pieces tomorrow does it make sense to plant a tree today?  Luther thought so.    Jeremiah, knowing that Jerusalem was about to fall to the Babylonians, went ahead and bought the field, signed the deed and put it in a clay pot for safe keeping.  Why?  because he trusted God.

God said that all that was about to happen to Judah, the destruction of the temple, the arrest and death of the king, the exile back to Babylon, it was all going to happen, but it was only temporary.  Eventually, they would come back, the Kingdom would be restored, the temple would be rebuilt, and a new King would be installed to reign.  So the question for Jeremiah is, do you trust God to keep His promise?  Do you trust enough to “put your money where you mouth is” and buy the piece of land, keep the contract safe so that your heirs will have a piece of land to rebuild a house on and plant crops, and maybe an apple tree or two?  How much do you trust God?  Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

Jesus would later talk about the “pearl of great price”  a treasure so valuable that someone would sell everything that they had to buy it.

Some might say that right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and societal disruption it feels like we are under siege from uncontrollable forces.  I’m not acting as a prophet right now.  God hasn’t given me exclusive insider information about how all of this is going to end.  Maybe we discover an effective vaccine?  Maybe we figure out a way to restore racial harmony?  Maybe not.  I don’t know.  Maybe we have another civil war and the United States of America will be no more?  I don’t know what’s going to happen with these current crises.  God used the powerful and evil nation of Babylon to punish His disobedient children 2600 years ago.  Maybe God is using disease, division, death and destruction to punish his disobedient children today.  Or maybe this is the devil doing what he does – “steal, kill and destroy”.

There’s a lot about our current situation I Don’t know.  But what I DO know is that God is still in charge.  God is still in heaven.  God is still all powerful.  God is still good. God made a promise that one day he would send His Son Jesus to bring a final end to sin and death, there will be a final judgment against sin, and there will a renewed heaven and earth and finally God Himself will make His permanent home in our midst (See Revelation 20, 21 and 22).  I still believe that to be true.  If I were a betting man in Vegas I would push all my chips onto that hand, I’d be “all in”.  I don’t know how much time I personally have left before Jesus comes again or before I close my eyes in the temporary sleep of death and await the resurrection, but this I do know, I’m betting it all on God.  I’ll buy that field.  I’ll plant that tree. I’ll spend every day of my life telling people that God is faithful and God is good and that Jesus is coming again. I’m all in.  I hope that you are too!

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+32-34&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 35-37 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Backsliding

Jeremiah 30-31

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In the traditional hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” there’s a verse that includes the following line: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love.”

I invite you to just sit with that line for a minute….

Have you observed this tendency in your own life?  Are you prone to wander … to stray away from God?  While you are thinking about that let us consider the Nation of Israel, God’s people.  We’ve been looking all week at Jeremiah’s prophecies to the people of God some 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  They were a nation that was “prone to wander” away from God.  They kept wandering into idolatry.  They wandered into sacrificing their children to the immoral gods of their evil age.

There’s a term Jeremiah uses in several places in his letter.  The word is backslide.  That word is kind of an old and outdated word, but I’d like to dust it off for a minute.

Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” KJV

Jeremiah 14:7  “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.” ESV

One definition of backsliding is: “To revert to sin or wrongdoing, especially in religious practice, someone who lapses into previous undesirable patterns of behavior.”

If you’ve ever had a bad habit that was harmful or sinful- smoking, eating junk food, abusing alcohol or drugs, viewing pornography, spending too much time looking at social media, etc…. if you had a bad habit, overcame that bad habit and replaced it with a good habit for an extended period of time, and then reverted back to the bad habit… that’s a kind of backsliding.

Israel had a pattern of religious backsliding.  They would worship idols, God would warn them or punish them and they would stop worshipping idols for a while, then they would start worshipping idols again.

After many years of backsliding,  God had to deal more decisively with their hard hearted and sinful ways.  Their whole nation was about to be torn apart, the temple destroyed, the walls of Jerusalem come down, the king and his kingdom would fall from power, many would be killed and many would be brought into exile.

In the midst of all of this doom and gloom Jeremiah says in 30:10, “Do not be afraid.”  How does one NOT be afraid when everything around you is about to come crashing down?  Here in the midst of all the doom and gloom Jeremiah gives them some good news or gospel.

God’s message to Israel is this-  “I am going to discipline you because of your great guilt and many sins” but the discipline is only for a limited time.  “After your discipline, I will restore you, you will come back to your land, you will rebuild your temple, those who I used to punish you will themselves be punished, and after I have regathered you I will raise up one of your own to be your king.”

This part of Jeremiah was written 600 years before the birth of Jesus, but it gives a clear and vivid prophecy of Jesus.  In Jeremiah 30:9 when he says that he will “raise up” “David their King” he wasn’t just talking about King David, who had died several hundred years earlier, he was looking ahead to Jesus.  Jesus is “one of your own” a Jewish man, a descendant of the kingly tribe of Judah and descendant of David.  God promised that he would raise up this king- and oh how he kept that promise when he “raised up” Jesus, who had been crucified and buried in the tomb three days.  He raised up Jesus from the grave and 40 days later he raised up Jesus into heaven (Acts 1:9).  One day Jesus will return to reign over all the earth in the Kingdom of God and he will be raised up and exalted over all the earth (see Philippians 2:9-11).

What happened to backsliding Israel?  Jeremiah 31:19 “For after I had turned away I repented…”  And how did God respond?  Jeremiah 31:20: “Is Ephraim (another term for God’s children) my dear son?  Is he the child I delight in?  As often as I speak against him,  I still remember him.  Therefore I am deeply moved for him;   I will surely have mercy on him says the Lord.”

Other words for backslide are “apostasy” or “fall away”.  Friends, I dearly hope that in your walk with Jesus you will not be one of those who are “prone to wander” or “prone to leave the God I love.”   Recently Pastor John Guthrie posted old pictures from RYOT and FUEL.  Some going back nearly 20 years.  It was fun seeing myself, other staff and many of the FUEL attendees of past days who are now adults with children of their own.  But it was also sad to see some of them who are no longer in the faith.  Some have left the Church of God, but even more disheartening, some have left the faith completely.  Some have backslidden, some have fallen into complete apostasy and are now living in a state of unbelief.  It can happen to any of us.  Don’t let it happen to you.  But if it has and you are reading these words… it’s not too late to repent and turn back to God.  For just as God remembered and delighted in backsliding Israel and had mercy on them, He will remember and delight and have mercy on you if you turn back to Him.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 30 & 31, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+30-31&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Jeremiah 32-34 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Love & Discipline

Jeremiah 26-29

Jeremiah 26 2b 3 NIV sgl

I love God’s optimism.  Sometimes God reminds me of a Jewish mother, always looking for the best in her son.

“Three Jewish mothers are sitting on a bench, arguing over which one’s son loves her the most. The first one says, “You know, my son sends me flowers every Sabbath.

“You call that love?” says the second mother. “My son calls me every day!”

“That’s nothing,” says the third woman. “My son is in therapy five days a week. And the whole time, he talks about me!”

God is optimistic like that: “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” (Jeremiah 26:2-3).

God was more than ready to forgive them.  God had no desire to punish His people.  He gave them every opportunity to repent.  But instead of heeding the warnings of Jeremiah and changing direction, they wanted to kill the prophet.  Jeremiah was eventually spared, but the people still failed to listen to his warning and repent.  Babylon ultimately did conquer them and carry them back to Babylon in Exile.

Jeremiah warned that the exile would last 70 years.  Another “prophet” named Hananiah came back and said that in just 2 years they would all be back and everything would be okay.  Hananiah flat out lied.  He was spreading fake news (see yesterday’s devotion).  It ended up that Hananiah is the one who died and his prophecy did not come true.

Once the exile began there was no turning back.  But God had a plan for that time in exile.  It was actually to protect his people.  Just as their years of captivity in Egypt enabled Israel to grow from just a few people into a great nation capable of taking possession of the promised land, this time of exile was intended to be a time for God to both cleanse the land from idolatry and cleanse God’s people from their idolatrous ways.  While the exile might have felt like a punishment and a judgement, and it was, it was actually intended by God to help bring his people back to righteous living.

When a parent punishes a child, the healthy parent is not getting any joy from seeing their child suffer.  The old expression “this is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you” has a real basis in truth.  A loving parent punishes, or better – disciplines, their child out of love.  The child has been acting in ways that are ultimately harmful to themselves and they need correction.  After numerous warnings and Israel’s failure to heed those warnings and repent, God had to take bold corrective action.  But the intent and purpose is love.  They needed to be purged of their idolatrous practices which included sacrificing their children to the gods of the age.

The exile was intended by God to purge them of their idolatry and purify them as a people.  As they were living in Babylon they were to live as good citizens.  They were to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the place in which God had brought them (Jeremiah 29:7).  Babylon was certainly not a perfect place and had its own share of godlessness and evil, but God’s people were to live peacefully and seek the good of Babylon while they were there.

I would encourage you to read carefully the letter that God had Jeremiah send to the exiles in Babylon found in chapter 29.  This is instructive for Christians today.  As Christians in the world today, we are ultimately children of God, citizens of God’s coming Kingdom.  Our King is Jesus and he is currently in heaven, waiting for the day when he will return to earth and establish God’s kingdom.  So our citizenship is currently in heaven.  When our king comes and the earth is transformed, our citizenship will be here on the renewed earth.  Until that time, as we live here we are resident aliens.  I may be a US citizen in the United States in name, but ultimately, I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom living here as a stranger and foreigner.  Peter calls us exiles.  You and I are exiles living here just as the Jewish people were exiles living in Babylon in Jeremiah’s time.

As exiles here we should practice the same things that Jeremiah told the Jews in Babylon to do as exiles there.  We should get married, have families, increase in number and pray for the place we are living.  We are to continue the creation mandate given in Genesis 1- “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it etc…”  As Christians living here in exile we use our gifts to make the place in which we are living a better place.  Babylon was not perfect, but the people of God living there were to contribute to it being a better place to live.  America or Canada or wherever you happen to live is not a perfect place, but you as a Christian should live in a way and use your gifts and energy to make it a better place, until Jesus comes again and we are no longer in exile but enter into the fulness of the Kingdom of God.

Note that eventually, God brought judgment against Babylon.  That empire fell to the Medes and the Persians, and it was the Persians that made it possible for the people of God to return from exile to the promised land.  Let us seek the best for wherever we live, but when God decides to bring judgment against that place, it is all part of his plan, and he will watch over His people who remain faithful to him wherever we are.  And in the end, all will be well.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 26-29, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+26-29&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 30-31 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan