Judah Kicked Out of the House

Jeremiah 10-13

Jeremiah 12 7 NIV sgl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 11:6-12

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

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

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

His Law & Love

Numb 5-6 CainPicture1

Right at the beginning of chapter 5 we continue the theme of supreme holiness.  This helps me remember that chapter and verse separations are not part of the original scriptures. For me, sometimes using verse and chapter markings can hinder my Bible study because I can see them as walls dividing different ideas or topics instead of a continuation of an idea.  That being said, we see God’s holiness carry over from chapter 4 to chapter 5. He wants His people to be so holy that He doesn’t even want unclean people in the camp. Of course, this could have medical benefits as well, which I think is another reason God instructed His people to leave the camp if they are unclean (verses 1-4).

In verse 6 there is something that grabs my attention. The NASB translation says, “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty”. The word unfaithful is מַעַל (maal) in Hebrew. It is the same word that is used to talk about unfaithfulness in marriage. You will notice that the rest of the chapter deals with unfaithfulness in marriage. I think it is intriguing how God sees sin and idolatry as unfaithfulness in the same way that people see unfaithfulness within marriage. In fact, this is the premise of the entire book of Hosea. God uses the authentic metaphor of an adulteress wife to show how Israel acts towards Him. In God’s eyes, sin and marital unfaithfulness are one and the same.

Speaking of marital unfaithfulness, the majority of chapter 5 deals with an interesting situation that may arise in the lives of the Israelites. We are presented with a situation where there is a jealous man who thinks that his wife might have been unfaithful in their marriage, but there is no proof. No one saw her with another man; there is just suspicion. Now I think it is important to understand the world in which the Israelites live. Surrounding the time the law was given to the Israelites, there were other nations with other laws to deal with similar situations. Here is what the code of Hammurabi says about a woman accused of adultery, “If a man’s wife should have a finger pointed against her in accusation involving another male, although she has not been seized lying with another male, she shall submit to the divine River god for her husband.” This divine River god test pretty much consisted of her husband making her jump into a raging river and if she survived then the “god” ruled that she was innocent and if she died then she was guilty and her judgment was given to her. Keep this in mind as we go through Numbers 5.

If a Jewish man had suspicion that his wife was unfaithful, he didn’t throw her in a river to see what happened. Instead, he had to go to the tabernacle and see a priest. The couple would bring barley meal as a memorial offering and then the priest would set out the rules for the test that was to come. Essentially, the woman agreed to drink some water mixed with a little bit of dust and ink. A little bit of dust and ink isn’t going to have major adverse health effects unless there actually is some divine judgment involved in the situation. However, jumping in a raging river has been known to kill people even if they weren’t unfaithful in their marriage. This test takes the judgment out of man’s hands and squarely puts it in the hands of God to make the call. I know it doesn’t look like it at first, but this dust and ink water test is a major step forward for women in ancient history. No longer can a man choose to beat his wife or throw her in a river based on his suspicion. He must do the very public act of taking her to the tabernacle and allowing God to make a judgment. If you notice in verse 28, she is free if the judgment doesn’t come over her. This means the man can no longer bring this charge against her. Women weren’t treated this well in any other society on earth during this time in history. The Bible puts men and women on equal playing fields in value. God makes sure that His people cannot take advantage of women the same way other nations do.

Many people want to point a finger at the Bible and say that it’s misogynistic and oppressive to women. However, God’s law ensured that women were taken care of and given the same value as men. God doesn’t hate women; He made both men and women in His image. I think there are two major points we can pull out of Numbers 5. First, God sees sin as a spouse sees marital unfaithfulness and second, God values both men and women the same. God put into effect laws that protected both His holiness and the holiness of His people and He made sure the men of His people couldn’t abuse the women who are also made in His image. This is a true gift of the Bible. In every page, in every sentence, we see the heart of God coming alive to us. Even in obscure laws about obscure situations, we see God’s heart for His people.

Now let’s take a look at Chapter 6. The majority of this chapter is dedicated to explaining the Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow is a special vow that a person can take to dedicate themselves to God. Notably, Samson partook in a Nazarite vow which is why he lost his strength after his hair was cut. A part of the promise to Samson was to keep his vow with God and once he broke that vow, his strength left him. If you wish to take a Nazarite vow, remember the wise words of Ecclesiastes 5:5, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” The Nazarite vow is so intense it even bars contact with dead relatives which would make a person unclean. Yes, if you were in a Nazarite vow and a close relative died, you wouldn’t be allowed to attend their funeral without breaking your vow. This is how serious the Nazarite vow is.

The last few verses of chapter 6 are an interesting section usually referred to as the Aaronic blessing (Aaronic referring to Aaron, the brother of Moses). The words of the Aaronic blessing are beautiful and tender. God asks for Aaron to make known how much God cares for His people.  In these words we see God’s heart. Later, there is a great promise that proclaims “they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them”. Ultimately, God wants us to call out to Him in all seasons. When we see Israel go off track in the Old Testament, God desires for them to return to Him so that He can return to blessing them. We see this in Matthew 7:11 as we are reminded that God is our Father.  “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Don’t these words resonate so well with what we see in Numbers 6?! Our God doesn’t change – He still loves us and wants to bless us. If God didn’t change in the 1,400 years between the writing of Numbers and the words of Jesus, then surely He hasn’t changed between the time of Jesus and our time now. If you are a child of God today, God wants to bless you and wants to take care of you. Take peace and find rest in this truth.

 

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+5-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

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