Archive for October, 2013

Jeremiah 49

Jeremiah 49 has the prophet speaking truth about the Ammorites, the people of Edom, folks in Damascus and those in Elam.  The results are going to be pretty much the same for all  – God is not happy and is going to destroy them.  Sin certainly gets in the way and turns blessing into destruction.  God tells all of these places their pending fate.  It varies by place, but the end result is the same.  God is going to clean up things. He is going to wipe out those who have chose to follow their own interests and ignore Him.

Jeremiah boils it down to this: they “trusted in her treasures, saying, ‘Who will come against me”.  We as humans can certainly get a false sense of security when we depend on self.  We build up our own treasures and create our own little kingdoms and believe that we are large and in charge.  We are not, in any way shape or form, in charge of anything.  In fact we are absolutely dependent on God alone.  But we create a false sense that no one will come to destroy us because we’ve had some success and believe we can do it alone.

We have a very real enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy us.  And he often does that by getting us to believe in self over God.  He convinces us that we can do it alone. We don’t really need God after all.  The truth is that is a lie.  There is none like God.  There is no way we can stand and take control of our own patch.  But we buy into that lie.  We allow power, possession and position to get the best of us, and we push God off the throne of our lives and put self in His place.  And then it goes bad, really bad, just like we see here.  God isn’t amused.

The reality is that God alone sits on the throne.  “I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me”?  No one is like Him.  No one can summon Him – He summons us.  No one can stand before Him with any authority.  We can only come to Him on our knees pleading for His grace and mercy.  God alone is God.  Have you got Him where He belongs in your life?  Is He on the throne, or are you creating a situation where He will have to come and clean things up?  Much better we do it ourselves and put Him where He belongs keeping self out of the way!

Jeremiah 48

Jeremiah 48 has a prophecy from Jeremiah about Moab.  This is the next nation that will fall according to God’s words which tell us “the renown of Moab is no more”.  Not really a partial destruction – God is going to wipe them out too.  Why?  “For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken”.  Misplaced trust is the issue.  They believe in self-sufficiency and pushed God aside completely.  They didn’t need Him – they could do all things themselves and depended on what they accumulated.

So God is going to take action to break them of their self-focus and pride.  “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces”.  God isn’t going to be pushed aside.  He is not ok with being ignored or irrelevant because this is His world.  When mankind gets too big for his britches, God moves.  He doesn’t allow the pride of self “because he magnified himself against the Lord”.  Only God is God.  We will never achieve that, although we often act like we have.

So God prophesies through Jeremiah the punishment of Moab.  “I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the Lord, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god”.  When we put something else in place of God, it is idolatry.  That is not ok.  God is not humored by our stupidity and misplaced affection.  The people in Moab were worshipping and sacrificing to false gods and that brings a response from the One True God.  “I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares”.  God is going to take back His rightful place.

How far is God willing to go to clean up idolatry and sin?  “Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people, because he magnified himself against the Lord”.  All the way.  God is not going to share His place with any other gods.  So we need to clean up our lives and get rid of anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God.  We need to put off those things that cause us to allow something else to get between us and God.  Idolatry is not accepted in any way.  God never tolerates it for long!

Jeremiah 47

Jeremiah 47 has the prophet giving the word of the Lord that came to him concerning the Philistines. Jeremiah obviously spends lots of time with God.  And he is in listening mode.  We can learn much from him here.  He puts himself in a place that when God speaks to him, he can hear.  He isn’t so busy that he misses what God may be saying.  He makes time to communication and be in fellowship with God.  And as a result, God speaks truth regularly into his life.  Jeremiah writes down every word, often through his scribe, but he hears and records and repeats exactly what God says.

God gives us truth when we rightly handle it.  Prophets that weren’t faithful to listen or repeat God’s truth didn’t get it any more.  But Jeremiah shows us that over time, when we communicate with God with intention and the right motive and actions, God continues to communicate with us.  Often we are so busy with our own agenda and talking at God we miss completely what He has for us.  We don’t take time to read what He’s already written to us in His Word.  We don’t sit quietly and listen to what He has for us.  We are self-absorbed and focused on what we want Him to do for us.

Jeremiah here is given the word that the Philistines are going to be wiped out.  “The day is coming to destroy all the Philistines”.  God is going to take action.  “Men shall cry out, and every inhabitant of the land shall wail”.  It won’t be pretty.  God is going to destroy this people. And Jeremiah has been given the words to proclaim it.  God will be glorified as His words come to pass, and these people are punished to the point they perish.

God is a God of action.  He does what He says.  “How can it be quiet when the Lord has given it a charge”?  God never fails to do what He says He will do.  When He gives His word, it is a done deal.  That is what makes scripture so precious.  We can take God at His word.  We can depend on what He says as truth. We can literally bank our life on His promises, because He never fails.  He never comes up short.  God always does exactly what He has said.  Jeremiah records these words as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.  We have an entire book filled with His words coming true!

Jeremiah 46

Jeremiah 46 has the prophet giving a picture of what is to come to Egypt, which is going to be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.  Remember that the remnant of Judah fled there thinking they would be safe, even though God told them to stay put and not go to Egypt.  They disobeyed, and Jeremiah is telling of what is to come.  “That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes”.  God is going to take action. Egypt will fall.

Egypt was pretty big stuff.  They had been in power for a long time, and had conquered many nations.  They also had lots of allies that were going to assist in battle.  But they didn’t factor in God.  “Why are your mighty ones face down? They do not stand because the Lord thrust them down”.  The reality is that God plus one is a majority.  God plus one is enough to win.  So God plus Nebuchadnezzar’s army is more than enough.  The allies turn back because of issues in their own land, so Egypt is alone to face the enemy.

And there is a description from Jeremiah of what is to come.  “They shall cut down her forest, declares the Lord, though it is impenetrable, because they are more numerous than locusts; they are without number”.  It’s all over except the actual fight, but God is going to do what He said and destroy the Egyptians.  So what about God’s people who are living there and trying to avoid extinction.  God, even in His anger, says “But fear not, O Jacob my servant, nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid”.

He goes on to say “Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end”.  He doesn’t say they get off without any pain.  “I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished”.  So even though they sinned and disobeyed God by going to Egypt, God is still going to be true to His covenant and protect them so they are not destroyed like the Egyptians will be.  But they are going to be punished.  They will pay a price for disobedience.  Sin never pays!

Jeremiah 45

Jeremiah 45 is a very short five verses and talks about “Baruch, the son of Neriah”.  We don’t think of Baruch as a key figure in scripture, but he certainly was a key part of Jeremiah’s life and the prophecy that God gave through him.  Baruch was Jeremiah’s scribe.  “He wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah”.  So the scriptures we have today with Jeremiah’s prophecy came from the pen of Baruch.  This chapter takes place “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim who was king of Judah”.

Jeremiah gets all the attention from his book, but Baruch was an important piece of the story.  He writes down what Jeremiah says, and also has to be the messenger at times as well.  Remember back in Jeremiah 36 when he is told to go to the temple to share God’s prophecy because Jeremiah was banned from entering.  Baruch is a regular guy with a gift for transcribing things, and he has dedicated his life to serving God with his skill by taking every word Jeremiah said and writing it down.  That was a pretty daunting task, because Jeremiah was not a man of few words.

Baruch expresses himself to God here.  “Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest”.  He is tired.  He has seen his labor be destroyed.  Jehoiakim took his scroll, which he has worked on for years, and burned it bit by bit as it was read.  Can you imagine the frustration he felt?  Baruch shares his frustration openly with the Lord and Jeremiah.  And God replies through Jeremiah.  He basically says ‘I hear you – I know how you feel’.  God knows the evil of the world.  He understands the pain we suffer because of it.  And He cares about how it impacts us.

God gives Baruch a promise which is much more than he could ever do on his own.  God says He is going to be cleaning up things on earth.  Some people and their evil have to go.  But “I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go”.  Baruch’s reward for his faithful service is that God will be with him and go before him.  What a promise.  God is going to bless this faithful servant with a gift that will be his forever.  Are you walking faithfully with God?  He notices.

Jeremiah 44

Jeremiah 44 is a great lesson in life and how critical obedience is.  Jeremiah has been telling the remnant of Judah – the few left – that God wants them to stay put.  They have decided he is lying and are going to do what they want which is head to Egypt because they wrongly believe they will be protected and safe there.  God has given Jeremiah some strong words for His people now, that “this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers”.

Living well with God is not rocket science. It is all about obedience.  God was more than clear over history with His expectations and requirements.  But the leaders and people did not listen or obey.  And now God is reminding them of this yet again.  “I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets….but they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods”.  God sent many prophets throughout history and recorded in scripture to tell people exactly what to do and how to live.  But they didn’t listen.  Do you fall in that boat?

So because of God’s nature, He has to take action.  “Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out….they became a waste and a desolation”.  It happened over and over in scripture, which begs these questions directly from God “why do you commit this great evil against yourselves….why do you provoke me to anger….Have you forgotten the evil of your fathers”. History is clear.  Disobedience never ends well.  So why do we insist on living our own selfish ways and disregard what God has told us?

Here is a clue – pride.  “They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your fathers”.  We think we can do better than God.  We believe we know what is best for us.  And when we put self on the throne bad things happen.  “Therefore….I will set my face against you for harm….I will take the remnant of Judah….and they shall all be consumed….they shall die by the sword and by famine….I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt….so that none of the remnant of Judah who have come to live in the land of Egypt shall escape or survive”.  Do you see this clearly?  God has set the rules.  When we choose to disobey (and it is absolutely a choice we make) there is a direct result and it isn’t good.  Our problem is pride and believing we know best and can do whatever we want.

Jeremiah boils the problem down to this: “It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day”.  Sin and disobedience cause disaster.  It is broad and widespread.  Our actions matter.  How we live and the choices we make determine what happens in life.  God is paying attention.  Grace covers our sin eternally, but it doesn’t deal with the impact of sin from a circumstantial perspective.  When we violate God’s direction and do it our way, we will live with that outcome.  How we live matters.  Are you living intentionally for Him?

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah 43 is such a predictable outcome after Jeremiah finishes giving the remnant of Judah God’s direction for their future.  Jeremiah was asked to seek God for His will, and it was to stay put and put down roots and grow the nation right where they were.  The words were hardly out of his mouth when the leaders came to him and said “you are telling a lie”.  Isn’t that how it goes when we hear something we don’t want to hear.  We accuse the messenger rather than deal with the truth.

These very men were the ones who pleaded with Jeremiah to seek God for His direction.  But they had a desired outcome.  They already had a plan in place for what they wanted to do and how they were going to do it.  Now that Jeremiah has told them something completely different, obedience is no longer something they are interested in.  “Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah”.  They were on a mission to do things there way, even if it is directly against what God has told them to do.

Remember that God specifically told Jeremiah to say “do not go to Egypt”.  And guess where these guys are planning to take the people, and in fact do take them?  To Egypt.  God knew their hearts before they even asked what His plan was for Judah.  He knew they intended to take the people there because they believed they would be safe there.  But the truth is that God’s plan has Egypt being destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.  So God has Jeremiah hide a few large stones in “the mortar in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace” so God’s prophecy could come true and the people would know that what Jeremiah has said is truth.

God is going to destroy more of His people as a result of this disobedience.  And Egypt is going to pay a price too.  “I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive”.  God is going to “clean the land of Egypt”.  He is on a mission to put things in their rightful place which means pestilence, captivity and death by the sword.  It isn’t going to be a very pretty place to be.  Disobedience always carries a significant price.  But the people of Judah take disobedience to a different level as they completely disregard God’s command to stay put and go to Egypt following the desire of their leaders over those of God.

Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah 42 has the prophet being sought out by the remnant that remained after Ishmael came and killed most of them seeking God’s direction.  The rescuer Johanan and other commanders, and all the people come to Jeremiah and ask him to pray and seek God about their future.  “We are left with but a few….that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do”.  They want to hear God’s direction for their future.  Certainly the path they have been on has led them to almost total destruction, so they are now seeking God’s plan.

Jeremiah agrees and tells them “I will keep nothing back from you”.  He takes their request to God with the understanding that he is seeking God’s direction “that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God”.  So Jeremiah goes to God, and seeks His face.  A response didn’t come immediately. Scripture tells us “at the end of ten days” God gives Jeremiah the plan.  “If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you”.  Pretty simple – stay put and put down roots.  Don’t go anywhere – just live here with me.

That likely put a bit of fear into the people, as they’ve had quite a rocky period being almost wiped off the face of the earth by enemies.  Who will protect them from those who may want to continue the destruction?  God addresses that too.  “Do not fear….I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand”.  God never asks us to do anything He hasn’t orchestrated completely and covered off on all the details.  When He asks them to stay put, He also promises their safety.  But God knows the heart of these people is to get back to Egypt where they believe they will at least be safe and under the protection of someone.

So His answer goes further, and God gives Jeremiah the other side of the equation.  He’s told the remnant of what they are to do – stay put and grow back their people.  But now Jeremiah gives them the other side.  “But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land….then the sword that you fear shall overtake you”.  It isn’t just a recommendation from God.  This is a life and death choice.  Stay and be well, leave and go elsewhere and perish.  It shouldn’t be a difficult decision.  And to make it even clearer God says “O remnant of Judah, ‘do not go to Egypt’”.  It is a clear as it can get.  What choice will they make?

Jeremiah 41

Jeremiah 41 is a rather gruesome chapter about a bad guy names Ishmael, son of Nethaniah.  It seems he was “of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king” and he was on a mission to take out the appointed governor of the land, a guy by the name of Gedaliah.  Ishmael strolls into town with ten men and meet the governor who invites them and “they ate bread together”.  There was no reason to be suspicious of one of the king’s officers being in town.  The assumption I’m sure was that Ishmael was there to check up on how things were going.

But Ishmael had a different motive, and he killed Gedaliah and “struck down all the Judeans….and the Chaldean soldiers”.  He did it quietly and without fanfare, but he wipes the leadership out.  Eighty other men arrive into town “and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came”.  Pretty good actor, this Ishmael is. He comes out with a sob story of the killing of Gedaliah and next thing you know he is killing the 80 who have come to town.  He spares ten who told him they had a bunch of stuff hidden in the fields, and greed kept Ishmael from killing them, at least until he can snatch their stuff.

Ishmael threw all the bodies into a cistern which had been dug out by King Asa some years earlier.  “Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites”.  He is going to become a traitor and was taking quite a prize of captives along.

But “when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah”.  Not so fast Ishmael.  It isn’t going to be quite that easy.  Johanan chases after Ishmael and when they are catching up, Ishmael and eight men flee for the Ammonites and leave all their spoils behind.  They are taken back to safety in the kingdom.  Ishmael didn’t get his spoil, but did kill many people and destroyed the leadership structure that had been put in place.

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk 3 is a prayer from the prophet after spending the first two chapters asking God questions, and getting His responses.  Now we see that Habakkuk has some understanding of God.  “O Lord, do I fear”.  He has been given a glimpse of God’s justice and wrath, and has a healthy fear of the Creator.  His prayer begins with a cry to God for revival.  “In the midst of the years, revive it….make it known….remember mercy”.  Revival is the work of God.  It isn’t an achievement of man.  God is the author, man’s role is to cry out and plead for God to bring it to pass.

Revival is all about what God is up to.  It is His work around us.  There are some key questions we should ask ourselves though based on the reality that God is going to measure us.  “He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations”.  We will stand before Him and give account.  We need to consider His ways and see if we line up.  “His were the everlasting ways”.  God’s ways don’t change.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His requirements and justice won’t change.  So here are three areas to check about our life to see if we line up:

  1. Check your conduct – does your walk glorify the LORD as it should? How about your private conduct, which only the LORD sees?
  2. Check your conversation – is your speech profane or impure? Do you talk about Jesus with others?
  3. Check your communion – are you living a growing, abiding life with Jesus?

Habakkuk reviews God and His power.  God is in complete control.  “The sun and moon stood still in their place”.  Sounds like something that happened for Joshua back in his book the tenth chapter.  The lesson here is that we need to recognize the God of Creation and all that He has done.  We need to know His power.  And we need to praise God as a result.  Why?

  1. Because it gives appropriate honor and glory to God
  2. Because declares God’s specific works
  3. Because it teaches and reminds us of who God is and what He has done
  4. Because it places man in proper perspective under God
  5. Because it builds confidence in the power and works of God

Habakkuk ends the chapter waiting on God’s plan to come to pass.  “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”.  He knows the enemy is coming.  But He waits in confidence.  “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation”.  Even though Habakkuk knows difficult days are ahead, he rejoices in God.  He takes peace in God’s unchanging and loving nature.  He claims God’s strength and power when he concludes with “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places”.  Habakkuk knows that God would set his steps firmly on the ground that would not allow him to slip or fall.  We can trust God.  He never fails us!

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