You may have noticed there is a huge culture war going on within our country. There is no shortage of issues that are dividing people such as politics, abortion, LGBTQ issues, gun control, removing names from buildings, taking down statues, and climate change to name a few. It is very easy to demonize the “other side”, and both sides do it to each other every day. However, as Christians, we shouldn’t be demonizing anyone. God created all the people on both sides of the issues, and we are told to love everyone.
I have some pretty strong opinions about many issues. I strongly believe that your mother should not have had the right to end your life, and I believe you became you at conception. I will go to my grave standing up for unborn babies that deserve a chance to live because they are alive. However, I will still love those that disagree with me. I will actually like them, want to hang out with them, and would even call them a friend as well.
Some of you may think I shouldn’t be chummy with the other side, especially if it is an issue of Christians versus non-Christians. I can understand why you would feel that way, but it wouldn’t stop me. It also didn’t stop Jesus from going to Zacchaeus’ house. The people grumbled that Jesus had gone to be the guest of a sinner. How dare he get chummy with the other side. Was he not concerned about his reputation? Did he not understand how bad a person Zacchaeus was? He knew exactly what he was doing and stated it in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And it worked; Zacchaeus was saved during that visit.
Jesus knew there were people that lived immoral lives and didn’t agree with him about much of anything. They were lost. He didn’t ignore them or dislike them because of their disagreements; he made a point of getting to know them, showed sincere concern for them, and eventually died for them if they would accept him. He wanted to make a difference in their lives, and it is nearly impossible to do that if you take a side against them and demonize them. He took sides against issues, but he did not take sides against the individuals on the other side of those issues. He wanted everyone to be saved. Did some people fluster him at times? For sure, but he never stopped loving them.
Time to ponder:
Are there any individuals or groups of people on “the other side of an issue” that you look down on because of their beliefs or actions? If so, you should forgive them for whatever wrong they have done.
Is it possible to strongly disagree with someone’s beliefs, but still love them as your neighbor?
Is it ok to still support a business that has publicly fought for an issue that you vehemently oppose?
Today’s is a devotion I wish someone else was writing. It is over a chapter that is too dark, too deep, too depressing.
That is the start of the first devotion I wrote on Job 3. The one I spent a couple hours writing this morning before my computer ate the rest of it. So, now I get to write a second one. Maybe God has more to teach me about Job 3. Dear God, help me learn what you want me to learn – and put it into action.
I loved Hannah Deane’s devotions on Job 1 & 2 (as well as the rest of her devotions this past week on 2 Corinthians). If you missed them, I encourage you to go back and read them. Yesterday she pointed out that in chapter 2, Job’s grieving wife who had also lost so much, encouraged Job to just curse God and die. One can only endure so much, right? When is it time to give up on God? Job’s wife thought Job should be there already. But good old Job called it foolish talk. If you accept good from God, be prepared to accept some trouble, too, he said. Then his friends came and sat with him in silence for 7 days.
In chapter 3, Job speaks. And, it is difficult to listen to. Is he finally ready to curse God and die, as his wife had counseled him? No – not exactly. But there is no denying the pain and agony he is in. Rather than cursing God though, he curses the day he was born.
I have no recollection of the day I was born, but I have some pretty fond memories of the three days my children were born and put into my waiting arms. And it breaks my heart that one would become so depressed and despondent that they would wish their day of birth had never been. I have never been at this dark point Job was.
I also can’t help but think of the pro-abortion claims that for a certain amount of hardship (financial, physical, relational, or emotional), it would be better for a child to never have the chance at life. If we only had this ONE single chapter of Job to consider, it might seem that Job would agree.
It can not be denied. Hardships and loss come with life. No life has been lived without, no matter how spectacular the parents or timing or circumstances or inception. Hardship began with the serpent in the garden. And it will continue until the new heaven and new earth comes in the clouds, and God will live with His people and will wipe every tear from their eye and there will be no more mourning or crying or pain or death. (Revelation 21:1-4). What a beautiful hope for the future. But, we aren’t there yet. So, we must be prepared in this life for some trouble ourselves. And, we must consider how we can encourage, comfort and sit with those in deep pain and agony. And, while we are at it – how can we speak with compassion and wisdom to the would-be mom who is scared of the loss in her own life as well as the amount of hardship that a baby would meet in life? Job knows what it is like to be overcome by grief and raw emotion – for a time. That is where he is in Job 3, though he does not take his own life or the life of another.
Job doesn’t end with chapter 3. He has many more chapters of grief, sorrow and questioning God. There is not a quick and easy answer for pain. He will hear many half-truths from his friends who have a distorted view of God and His justice. And, then, he will get the opportunity to hear from God Himself. And, of course there are the blessings that Job receives in the end. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough days in the year to read each chapter one by one. In this year’s reading plan we will include just one more day tomorrow for Job before moving along to Psalms. But I encourage you to take some more time digging into Job. While Job continues to question God in his grief, he never gives up on God. I think we would do well to realize we don’t have to understand God in order to continue to trust Him.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
We are often uncomfortable with people who are in deep pain and agony. It can be difficult to be around people who are cursing the day they were born (at least for me). How can we bring comfort and wisdom to their deep hurt?
What advice and counsel do you think Job of Job chapter 38-42 would give to Job of Job chapter 3? What might he say to the man in despair contemplating taking his own life, or the woman considering an abortion?
How can you trust God even when you don’t understand Him?
This past Saturday women (and some men) gathered in front of the US Capital in Washington, DC and in state capitals across the United States to protest for women’s rights to choose to abort their unwanted babies. One of the signs held up said “Rage, Rage Against the Denial of Your Rights”.
That’s a dangerous way to begin today’s devotions. Some of you are likely offended or possibly even angry at me for what I wrote. I referred to them as unwanted “babies” and not “fetuses” or “products of conception.” Words matter. If a person says “illegal aliens” referring to those who cross the border without proper documentation and not “undocumented aliens” we know that they have an opinion about the status of those who have entered the country. “Illegal” sounds like a bad thing, like someone has broken a law and might be punished, whereas “Undocumented” sounds like some innocent mistake or a government slip up. I forgot my hall pass on my way to the bathroom and so I’m undocumented. That’s different than bringing a gun to school or taking drugs at school. Those activities are illegal and should be punished somehow, but crossing over the border without proper authorization, that shouldn’t be illegal, right? (If your sarcasm detector is now going off then it’s working properly)
Words matter, whether you say “illegal” or “undocumented” or whether you say “unborn or pre-born baby” or “product of conception.” If I refer to a “product of conception” that a woman has a right to dispose of, that’s no big deal. But if I say that it’s a human baby that is alive and waiting to exit her mother’s womb, and that we are killing that baby, that sounds pretty awful. No one wants to think about killing babies. No one should have the right to kill babies, but every woman should have a right to dispose of an inconvenient or unwanted ‘product of conception”.
Words matter. Jeremiah 1 wasn’t written specifically to address the issue of human life, and yet Jeremiah’s inspired words, given to him by God, are worthy of reflection and application to our context today.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”- Jeremiah 1:4-5
Here, God is calling Jeremiah to be his prophetic voice to the people of Israel. Jeremiah is an integral part of God’s plan to prophecy against His people Israel for their worship of other gods. Before Jeremiah was even born, God had a plan for his life. While Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb, God set Jeremiah apart to be a prophet. This is such a rich passage and we could reflect on it a hundred different ways. It speaks about God and his omniscience (that’s a technical term that means God knows everything). God is able to peer into the future and see that this tiny little cluster of cells which carries in it the DNA for a male human person who probably has brown eyes, brown hair and olive skin, will grow up to be able to speak for God 20 or 30 years in the future and be a key part of God’s plan.
This little tiny cluster of cells in that young Jewish woman’s womb would one day be born, grow up and go in the name of God to confront an entire nation with its rebellion against God.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”- Jeremiah 2:13
It was this tiny pre-born human, who God would use to condemn his people because: “On your clothes is found the lifeblood of the innocent poor.”- Jeremiah 2:34
God condemns Israel because her clothes are stained with the blood of the innocent and the helpless. Again, in the context Jeremiah is not referring specifically to pre-born babies who have been unjustly murdered (aborted). However, in our present context, those words have a clear application. Who are the most innocent and helpless human beings in the world today? It is the pre-born humans whose Mother’s don’t want to allow them to live. As thousands gather around the country to rage at the prospect of some states seeking to bring greater justice and defend the defenseless we must ask ourselves “How in the world did we get here?”
When God called Jeremiah it was to take a courageous stand against a wicked and corrupt nation. Is God calling His people today to take a courageous stand? I think so.
“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” -Jeremiahs 1:17-19
If you, like Jeremiah, accept the call to speak faithfully for God against the current culture of death, and in doing so invite the rage of those who don’t want their right to murder unwanted pre-born human babies, then put Psalm 91 in your back pocket and carry it with you wherever you go:
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
I have two dramatically different directions I’d like to go with today’s reading, and decided I’d share them both.
In 2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 6, we find, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. … He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”
Did you catch that, he sacrificed his sons in the fire. As repulsive as everything else is that he did, in my mind, nothing can compare with that. That sounds horrible, and in my mind, he deserved a horrible punishment.
2 Kings 24: 1-4 tells the end of that story. It goes like this, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”
God annihilated the nation of Judah because of all the innocent blood Manasseh had shed. God wasn’t willing to forgive. As I read this, I have to agree that God was right in his judgement against Judah. They deserved everything they got.
But this makes me wonder, how are we different from Judah? We may not sacrifice our children in the fire, but we do have rampant abortion in our nation. I wonder, in God’s eyes, how do those two ways of shedding innocent blood differ? Which makes me wonder how much we are provoking God to anger, and what will be the end of our story as a nation. I see parallels, and they concern me.
The second thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is that Manasseh was born during the additional 15 years that God had extended Hezekiah’s life. If Hezekiah had died when he was originally very sick, Manasseh would not have been born, and someone else would have been king. It may have been that Judah would have existed as a nation far longer. In this case, I think we can agree that for the greater good, it probably would have been better if Hezekiah had died young, so Manasseh would not have been born.
I know probably more than most, how we long to have life extended, and how we may plead with God to spare life. But I’m reminded of Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”
We don’t often think that sometimes the righteous die, basically for their own good. We view death as the enemy, and rightly so, but this life isn’t our final reward. This life is the test to see which eternal reward we will receive, life or death. It’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice that we should live so sold out for God, that we shouldn’t be concerned about our life or our death. We need to seek first God’s kingdom, and God will take care of everything else.
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.
I believe today’s reading will be the last of the genealogies for awhile. There are a lot of names, a lot of generations. Father to son. Father to son. Father to son – and sometimes a daughter. Father to son. A whole lot of heritage. A whole lot of passing along from one generation to the next. It reminds us that our life is not just what we see and experience today. We have a past that has shaped us and we (and our children) have a future for which to prepare.
I am reminded of a passage in Psalm 78 that we read last week but didn’t have time to discuss directly.
My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.
I am thankful for a father who passed along to me the spiritual heritage he received from his father and grandfather. Both of my parents brought their children up to seek and serve the Lord first – it is by far the most important life lessons that they taught. In fact, today’s photo is a Bible timeline that I inherited from my dad, and one of my favorite treasures from him. He spent hours researching and meticulously drawing out this timeline to help illustrate for his Bible students (including his children) God’s faithfulness and plan for the ages. And, he lived it out with his life, too.
So, now it is my turn to pass along what I have heard and learned. How do I do that with the words I speak, with the priorities I set and with the life I live? How do I help my children seek God, grow in faith and love Him more and more?
There are so many negative influences and evil that would love to help us and our children forget God’s great deeds, His law, His faithfulness and His plan for the ages. But we must not forget. Nor is it enough to just remember for ourselves. We have a great responsibility to hand these truths down to the next generation so they can hand them down to the generation after them, etc…until Jesus returns.
Maybe you cannot celebrate an upright Godly spiritual heritage in your genetic past. You don’t have the benefit of an antique family heirloom Bible timeline rolled up in your closet. That’s okay. Paper rips and ink fades, but if you have a love for the LORD you have priceless spiritual mentors you can call mom and dad. And, then, we must in turn create a spiritual heritage rich in God’s goodness, laws, and plan for salvation for those around us: our children, grandchildren and those children of all ages and colors and countries who need to know what God’s Word says and who God is.
God’s genealogy doesn’t end here in 1st Chronicles. It is continuing today, and into the future. Will it be recorded that you passed along what is of the most importance to those that came after you? Don’t let yourself, or your children, be listed as the ones that forgot. Tell of His goodness. Put God first. Pass it on.
Too important to not mention: I love verse 6 in Psalm 78 (above) where we see the value and great worth of, “the children yet to be born”. Whether the children are conceived or not, born or not, they were planned to play a part in God’s design of the passing along of family and faith. How tragic that this link has been broken time and time again when the children yet to be born are killed for convenience before they even get a chance to hear, learn and share of their Creator. Tell of His goodness. And His Word and His law. Do not forget. And do not ignore the evil that rejoices when God is forgotten. We need to speak louder since voices in the chain are silenced.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Wow, this is a tough passage for me. I hate politics. Or more accurately, I really dislike polices, laws, and politicians that I disagree with, especially on a moral basis. We live in a country where it is legal to end the life of a human baby, for no other reason than the mother just doesn’t want it. I have a big problem with that. So how do I deal with that reality in light of this scripture passage?
It would seem that God has allowed the people to be in position that have allowed abortion to become law of the land. And yet God certainly would not approve of this law or many others that exist in our country and other countries. Worse yet, we are told to submit to these authorities.
The truth is, God does not condone all of the decisions of government. He simply allows them to be in place. Sometimes He may use rulers to bless people, sometimes He may use rulers to judge people and sometimes we may not know why he has certain rulers in place. But regardless, the simple message from Paul is that we need to submit to authority in general. This is a model of submission to God. Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, it was during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.
Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man. John and Peter demonstrated that in Acts 4:18-19.
I have to live with and submit to the authorities that God has put in charge, but that by no means requires me to blindly follow every edict from those same authorities if it means breaking God’s law. God is the supreme authority, and His rule is superior to anyone He has placed in lesser authority over us.