Don’t Withhold the Cure

Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

The Old Testament prophets who spoke for God, including Jeremiah, were entrusted with preaching a lot of doom and gloom. Because God’s children had strayed from his commands, judgment would be coming and the people needed to know. I loved Jeff Fletcher’s illustration in his devotion yesterday of a doctor who could be charged with malpractice if he knew the sick condition of a patient’s insides and knew how to fix it and what changes the patient would need to make in order to cure the potentially deadly ailment, and said nothing. This would be like the Christian who sees the broken sinful world and pretends everything is okay. Don’t withhold the cure.

Jeremiah paints a very vivid picture of a world that is not okay. Chapter 9 opens with the prophet mourning the sinfulness of God’s people. He would love nothing more than to pack up and go to a desert retreat where he could get away from and forget this crowd of unfaithful people. Can you relate? But, rather than abandoning the people in their sin, Jeremiah continues passionately speaking truth for God, over and over, even though his words often seem to fall on deaf ears. He still must speak and write and hold out the cure to these wayward people.

God has had it, too. He aptly describes the situation this way:

“It is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3b NIV)

and again, “They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sining. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:6 NIV)

It sounds to me like God and Jeremiah are describing the sad state of affairs in 2021. So many lies and deceptions abound when attempting to justify and explain and even celebrate sin and sinful lifestyles that fester and grow when individuals and nations and societies have turned their backs on God.

It is as though God is left without a choice. “What else can I do because of the sin of my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7 NIV) “‘Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’ ” (Jeremiah 9:9 NIV). God had drawn up the rules long ago with blessings promised to those who followed and curses to those who stubbornly disobeyed. Many chances had been given. Prophets had been sent to remind the people of the deadly disease and of the cure – repentance, turning away from sin and turning back to God. But these were a very stubborn people who took delight in continuing in their sin and lies and more sin and more lies.

God had given mercy. God had given reminders. God had given prophets. God had stretched out the cure. But, to no avail. So, God says – it is time. It is time to teach your daughters how to wail – death and destruction is coming. (Jeremiah 9:20,21).

Towards the end of chapter 9 an interesting section seems almost out of place…

 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

Perhaps it was written more for us who would be reading Jeremiah centuries later, to remind us of the choice we have. And, the great opportunity we have to boast about our God, our Creator, Our YHWH. He created the cure. His Son is the cure that was not yet available in Jeremiah’s day. Sin is the same and comes with the same consequences – death. People today need to know about the cure. They don’t need to hear you bragging about your dinner, your kids, your car, your job, your grades, your house, your ______ (on social media or at the checkout line). They need to know about the LORD our God who exercises kindness AND justice and always righteousness. The Psalms passages today have some great examples of boasting about our God while holding out the cure. How can you hold out the cure today to a nation and world that is unknowingly in the stages of the deadly disease of disobedience?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

God of Justice

Jeremiah 51-52

Jeremiah 51 6b NIV sgl

 

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

In the Midst of a Dirty Situation

2 Samuel 16-18

2 Samuel 16 18 NIV sgl

In my job I semi-frequently get cursed at and called all sorts of names. This normally happens when the kids are in crisis themselves and are lashing out at others in their anger or, like everyone under the sun, are getting told to do something they don’t want to. The kids use their anger to try to hurt people – that is the result they are aiming for. Sometimes this results in physical violence where a kid will take a swing at you and hit their target.

I remember one day a girl was in crisis and was getting violent with all the male staff. She was stuck in the hallway between the units. Which unfortunately for her there is no emergency exit in the hallway like there are in the units. Unfortunately for us, the male staff, that meant it was impossible to walk in between the units without getting hit. She can’t really throw a punch. So, don’t think I am walking away bruised and bloodied here but no one really enjoys getting hit. Think of a 12-year-old with poor coordination hitting you and not aiming at the face because she knows that she would get put in a restraint for that. Somehow this girl had gotten into the staff break room. The go-to move for kids when in crisis is to try to destroy as much as possible and wreak havoc. In the staff break room there is a semi full refrigerator. I was in the staff break room when she broke in. So of course, she went right for the refrigerator to try to cover the walls as creatively as she could with condiments or whatever else was in there. So, since I couldn’t really stop her or drag her out of there, like your parents would to you or like you would to your children, I just stood in front of the refrigerator so she couldn’t access it. While I’m standing there, she is hitting me. I just ignore it and wait for her to get tired or bored and move on to something else.

The story of Shimei and David really resonates with me. This story is 2 Samuel 16.5-14. As a reminder, Shimei was a relative of Saul – who definitely didn’t like David. He was calling David names and throwing rocks at David and his men. This seems a lot like my normal day to day life. David’s reaction here and what he does is very intriguing. Abishai, one of David’s future commanders of a thousand, asks David essentially please let me kill this guy. I think any normal commander would have been angry at a man throwing rocks at his men. David didn’t act on this anger instead he cited a couple of reasons why Shimei could be doing this. David offers the explanation that this is God’s judgement on him for his actions, he says my son is after me why should I care about this guy? He also says that maybe God will repay me with good for this wrong done to me.

This last reason by David is crazy from an Old Testament perspective. The rule then was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and David is deciding not to take justice into his own hands and hurt Shimei. David is in effect saying, “I am putting the justice into God’s hands.” He is even saying something greater here as well.

David says that for an evil action done to me God may repay with good. David didn’t look at the harm done to him and get angry. David’s statement says something about what he believed about God and the world and everything that is going on in it. David sees suffering and says that God may bless him because of it. David didn’t play the victim card and say, “Look at me, poor David. My son took over my kingdom and now I am getting called names, getting dust kicked up at me, and getting rocks thrown at me.” His mind didn’t go there. He instead looks at his suffering with God in his view and says that God may repay me good for this. David believed that there was a God and that this God took action in his life. David believed that when God saw him suffering that he may repay him with good.

I don’t go into work with the mindset that when people call me names and try to hit me that this may ultimately be to my benefit. The thought never crossed my mind. Who really sees their suffering at the hand of other people as to their benefit? NO ONE. Yet, David did. How do you view it when people do you wrong? Can we look at these instances in those moments and say “God may repay me good for this evil done to me?” Are we going to believe that God is a god of justice and leave the justice in his hands? The way we frame things in our mind will allow us to not be bitter or angry but to maintain our joy and love for that person through difficult moments.

Daniel Wall

I really enjoyed writing all these devotions. Honestly, it has been a total blessing for me. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. If you read something interesting and wanted to reach out to me on Facebook or email at danielaaronwall@gmail.com or if you see me in person let me know you read them. It would be great to actually meet the people who have been reading the devotions.

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+16-18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 26, 40, 58, 61-62 & 64 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Opportunity We’ve All Wanted to Have

Habakkuk

Hab2

Thursday, April 20

There are some things that are guaranteed to happen in life: taxes, death, and suffering and evil. Haven’t you ever wanted to just have the opportunity to talk to God face to face? To have a conversation with him as we do with other humans? Each minor prophet has a characteristic about it that makes it unique from among the others. Habakkuk’s is this: he is the only prophet that dialogues back and forth to God as we do with each other, and the topic they discuss is suffering and evil. Specifically, how can God being just allow evil and suffering to continue?

The problem of evil is something all humans question, especially in light of God. Habakkuk and his context is no different. In the first four verses of chapter one, Habakkuk laments over the injustice that he witnesses, the wicked prospering over the righteous ones and the seemingly indifference that God exhibits in the present situation. Yet behold, God says in verse five, he will lead a foreign nation to punish the wickedness of his people in Judah. A common thread among all the prophets in the Bible: major, minor, Moses, John the Baptist, and others is that God ensures the prophet that justice is coming. Evil and wickedness will not triumph. Injustice and corruption will not be victorious. When we look back in the Old Testament we see again and again God takes action and rectifies the hopeless situation. But it’s important to remember that God does not act on our time, but on his.

Take for example, the enslavement of his people in Egypt. From the time they became slaves to when they were liberated was over four hundred years. How many Israelites cried out to their God during that time longing for liberation and freedom? Many. How many actually saw it come to fruition? Few. Yet God acted, and gave the Egyptians time to repent and let his people go. They refused, and God took his people out of slavery with a mighty hand.

The evil and suffering we witness God is not ignorant of. He is giving people time and opportunity to repent and reconcile with him through Jesus. But trust me, no, trust Exodus 34.6-7, that evil and injustice will not reign forever. He assured Habakkuk of this and he assures you and me today:

“Yahweh, Yahweh God is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives

iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means

leave the guilty unpunished.”

Exodus 34.6-7

 

-Jacob Rohrer

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

ezekiel

Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher