From time to time in the Bible, we see God miraculously deliver a righteous person in the midst of an evil lot that is getting punished for their wickedness. This demonstrates that God is often looking to provide a reward for faithfulness.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Some people mistakenly believe that following God is all about the rewards we can amass in this world and in the one to come. Such greedy, short-sighted thinking misses the point entirely! There is much more to a life of faith than mercenary means.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Habakkuk's questioning of God is rather startling for a Hebrew prophet. As he foresees the coming Babylonian invasion of Judah, Habakkuk struggles to comprehend how God could bear to use such a wicked nation against His own people.
The Psalmist who composed Psalm 125 envisions God as a champion on behalf of His righteous people. Because he "surrounds his people" like the mountains surround Jerusalem (vs. 2), they will be as unmovable as Mount Zion in Jerusalem (vs. 1). The Psalmist believes that God is on the side of the good, as revealed in such statements as "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts" (vs. 4). In contrast to the wicked, who God will lead away with the evildoers, the righteous can count on His presence and protection in their lives. That is simply the best state of affairs one can hope for in this life. Surely let us say, along with the Psalmist, "Peace be upon Israel!" (vs. 5)
Friday, June 24, 2016
Judgment day arrives for Jerusalem, and it comes with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian army.
A lot of history can happen in a short period of time. A quick succession of kings ascended to the throne of Judah before and during its defeat to Babylon. It can be hard to keep track of them because several of their names begin with the letter "J".
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
In chapter 38, Jeremiah's situation goes from bad to worse. After being imprisoned, the prophet is now thrown into a cistern and sinks down in the mud. In a way, his fortunes mirror that of Judah, whose condition is also going from bad to worse.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
"Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment" (Hebrews 11:36). The "Hall of Fame of Faith" chapter of Hebrews pays homage to the great men and women who had suffered much because of their faithfulness to the Lord. The author could easily have had in mind the travails of the prophet Jeremiah, who did indeed face imprisonment on account of his calling. We read in Jeremiah 37 how he was arrested and detained for "many days" (vs. 16). Preaching the Word of God had earned Jeremiah many powerful enemies, and they made sure that they had their vengeance on him when they could! Fortunately, Jeremiah was not put to death, but we will hear how his imprisonment grew even worse in chapter 38.
Monday, June 20, 2016
To a people that know nothing about faithfulness, God points out the example of a clan (called Rechabites) who have faithfully adhered to the strict guidelines established by their ancestor. Even in Jeremiah's day, generations after Rechab, they refuse to drink wine or live in structures. Instead, they make it a point to abstain and live in tents. God uses the Rechabites as a kind of object lesson to His wayward nation of Judah, pointing out what obedience looks like to a disobedient people (vs. 13-14). Because the Rechabites have faithfully followed the command of their ancestor, God promises that they will endure "for all time" (vs. 19).
Critics of the Bible sometimes point out that scripture was used to justify slavery in the United States before the Civil War. While that charge is true (as well as the fact that the Bible was equally cited in the north in the campaign against slavery), passages like Jeremiah 34 give, I believe, a window into God's opinion of slavery.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Friday, June 17, 2016
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Prophets do not necessarily predict the future. Generally speaking, a prophet is one who relays a message from God. Such a message may or may not be about the future. In chapter 31, Jeremiah has a lot to say about the future of God's people.
Jeremiah is regarded as "the weeping prophet," and for good reason. He was repeatedly called upon to proclaim his nation's defeat and destruction. But the good news is that this messenger of gloom and doom was also given a powerful hope-filled message to share in the midst of his negative utterances. Chapter 30 talks about what comes after the painful defeat by Babylon and national exile - that there will be a time of restoration!
Sunday, June 12, 2016
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease" (vs. 4-6).
Friday, June 10, 2016
In chapter 27, Jeremiah is given another tangible way to symbolize God's message to the people. Through the enactment of a wooden yoke around his neck, he demonstrates that the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, will subjugate the Judah and the surrounding nations. The only sensible course, he advises, is surrender and submission.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
"Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, 'This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!'" (vs. 11) The man they are talking about, of course, is Jeremiah.
Christians are blessed with many beautiful images of God given to us from the Bible. He is a good, gentle shepherd. He is a mother hen, gathering her chicks. He is the father of a lost, prodigal son waiting for his boy's homecoming. He is a handsome bridegroom awaiting his bride. There are, however, disquieting images of God as well, especially in the genre of Old Testament prophecy.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Monday, June 6, 2016
"People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?' And the answer will be: 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods'" (vs 8-9).
Faced with the Babylonian threat, King Zedekiah decides to approach Jeremiah and see if he can elicit a miraculous deliverance from the Lord, as He has done for the nation in the past. "Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us" (vs. 2).
Sunday, June 5, 2016
How do you feel about going to church? Does it seem like just another chore to fit into an already packed weekend? Would you rather take it easy and sleep in? Or is your heart lightened with joy and gladness at the thought of being in the Lord's house? Psalm 122 is an expression of love of worship in the sanctuary.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Judah's punishment looms over the nation so starkly that the prophet receives a call to join in neither feasting nor fasting with his countrymen. Jeremiah's life is to be emotionally truncated, cutting off the highs and lows that naturally mark our human experience.