Tuesday, September 29, 2009
LINK: Lamentations 3
Jeremiah begins this poem with his pain and hopelessness. He feels trapped and desolate, without peace or happiness (vs 1-18). But then he turns his attention to the LORD and remembers the hope that comes from Him. He remembers God's goodness and that He disciplines out of love. He speaks of God's longsuffering, justice, and sovereignty (vs 19-38). Jeremiah says that it's not man's place to complain, rather he should return to the LORD (vs 39-42). Yet God doesn't seem to be accessible, and enemies have brought devastation and destruction. Jeremiah weeps at what he sees and at the treatment he has received from the leaders in Jerusalem. He is overwhelmed (vs 43-54). He closes the poem with a prayer for God to deliver him from his enemies (vs 55-66).
In the depths of great sorrow, Jeremiah feels completely exhausted. His heart knows no peace, and he can't remember the last time he was happy. He is at the end of his rope and without any hope. Then he brings to mind something that gives him hope -- Now the most familiar verses of Lamentations -- "The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness."
Are you struggling today? Does your situation seem hopeless?Let's meditate on this passage. Even if today isn't a struggle, this is a wonderful passage to have stored in your heart for those difficult times when they come.
22The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him."
25The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the LORD.
27It is good for a man that he should bear
The yoke in his youth.
28Let him sit alone and be silent
Since He has laid it on him.
29Let him put his mouth in the dust,
Perhaps there is hope.
30Let him give his cheek to the smiter,
Let him be filled with reproach.
31For the Lord will not reject forever,
32For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
33For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.
Thank you, LORD, for being the faithful One who has compassion on us. Teach us to trust in You and wait for You. Amen.
Monday, September 28, 2009
LINK: Lamentations 1 & Lamentations 2
Author - The book of Lamentations is assumed to have been written by Jeremiah when Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar's army. Imagine how Jeremiah must have felt after 40 years of warning the people of the coming judgment from God. They never listened, and God followed through on His promise to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. What sorrow Jeremiah must have felt to see the destruction of what was so dear to him! The city and temple he loved were reduced to ashes and rubble. And he must have felt frustrated that 40 years of his preaching had had no effect on the people. He struggled with the emotions and the theology of seeing God bring destruction to His people. This book is borne of gut-wrenching experience and emotion.
Literary Style - The book consists of five chapters, each one a lament, or dirge. The first four laments are written in the form of acrostic poems. Each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetical order (22 letters). In chapter 3, each letter has three lines assigned to it, making it three times as long. Although chapter 5 has 22 verses, it is not an acrostic. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 all end with prayers, and all of chapter 5 is a prayer.
Historical Context - Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah in 605 B.C. to put down King Jehoiakim's revolt against Babylonian rule. At that time Daniel along with many other Jews were deported to Babylon. The army returned in 597, looted Jerusalem, and deported more people. The siege of Jerusalem began on January 15, 588, and on July 18, 586, the walls were breached. On August 14, the city was set on fire. Each year on this date, the Jews remember the event and read the book of Lamentations aloud in their synagogues. (Wiersbe)
Chapter 1 - Jeremiah surveys the city of Jerusalem and weeps over it. It was once a beautiful princess, but is now desolate as a widow. There is no one to help in the affliction. They had sought help from neighboring nations only to have those nations turn against them.
Chapter 2 - Jeremiah sees the devastation and cries out to God. God has destroyed all the strength and beauty of the nation and delivered it into the hands of its enemies. The devastation is overwhelming.
Once again, why was God destroying His chosen nation? They did not keep the covenant, they were disobedient, they refused to trust in God. These are the more obvious reasons, but I think there is also a broader reason. God's ultimate purpose for everything is His glory. The nation of Israel had been entrusted with His glory, as God Himself dwelt in the temple. But the people defamed that glory. They treated God with contempt and drug His name through the mud. They were also entrusted with the word of God, His message to the nations. But they corrupted that as well. God could not leave them in that state. So, instead, He destroyed them and kept a remnant that would later return and start over. Since then, the nation of Israel has never turned to idolatry again.
As believers, we have the riches of His glory and His word. What are you doing with them?
Lord, let us not waste the precious gifts You have given to us. Teach us to live obediently to You in order to bring You glory and honor in all that we think, say, and do. Thank You for the precious gift of Your word. Help us to continue to "soak" in it and let it transform us into Your image. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, amen.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Psalm 123, Psalm 124, Psalm 125
We continue with the “Songs of Ascent” which the faithful Jewish pilgims to
The songs of the Jewish pilgrims on foot journey to
There have been times when I’ve felt contempt and scorn from those who think that following Christ is foolish and I have cried to God for mercy. (Psalm 123). Sometimes I have even waited for Him as a loyal servant: with patience and trust and a realization that I am here to serve Him, not the other way around!
There have been times when I have suffered and been brought out on the other side to realize that I actually made it intact spiritually! God kept me from being completely overwhelmed; He kept me from being trapped (Psalm 124).
There have been times when I have known the LORD’s protection and understood clearly that the LORD is the One who gives stability and peace in the midst of persecution and chaos. He has kept me from being tossed and turned like a leaf on a stream. I have dwelt secure within the mountain that is God (Psalm 125). Don’t you love that simile?
Which psalm especially speaks to you? Notice the metaphors and similes in these!
Are you, in the midst of trouble, waiting in trust and hope for God’s mercy, realizing that He is in charge and you are His servant? It is easy to forget who serves whom sometimes.
Have you seen God’s protection in the past? Use that to bolster your faith now!
If you are going through difficulties now, don’t get swept along by them! Dwell in the mountain that is our LORD!
We praise you, our LORD, for your care of us. Help us to pause and reflect on these psalms today. Help your people who are in the midst of persecution and trial to look to you. Give them your help, you protection, your mercy and peace, as they wait on you.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 48
Moab was a nation east of Judah, along the coast of the Dead Sea. Historically, there had been a lot of interaction between the Israelites and the Moabites. The Moabites were the descendants of Lot by his older daughter (remember way back in Genesis 19, when she and her sister got their father drunk and lay with him following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). When the Israelites were in the desert, God told them not to harass Moab or provoke them to war, because their land was not what God planned to give them. Moses and the people confirmed the covenant with God on the plain of Moab right before Moses died. Another time, Moab refused to allow Israel's soldiers to march through their land. Balak was king of Moab when he asked Balaam to curse the Israelites for him. Ruth was from Moab. David hid from Saul among the Moabites. During the height of the nation, Israel conquered Moab and ruled it. The Moabites later rebelled against Israel's rule over them and gained independence. In later years, approaching the time of Jeremiah, Israel and Moab fought several times, and Moab joined with Babylon against Judah. Now Jeremiah speaks this prophecy against Moab. Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled beginning in 581 B.C. when Moab was conquered by Babylon. A few years later Moab was invaded by Arabs and completely disappeared.
Archaeological Note - In 1868 a German missionary discovered what is known as the "Moabite Stone" in the land that was Moab (modern Jordan). It is a record of the events of 2 Kings 3 (Moab's rebellion against Israeli rule) from the perspective of Mesha the king of Moab. Here's a fascinating article on the stone and what it says.
Notice the reasons God gives for this judgment against Moab:
- trust in their own self-sufficiency (vs 7)
- indifference (vs 11)
- arrogance toward the LORD (vs 26, 42)
- self-exaltation among others (vs 29)
- worshiping false gods (vs 35)
- I shall wail, cry out, moan, weep for Moab (vs 31-32)
- My heart wails for Moab like flutes (think "funeral") (vs 36)
Even though the people of Moab are out-and-out against God, He still has a place in His heart for them. Even though God is going to judge them for their arrogance, He isn't happy to do so and weeps at their destruction. And even though He is about to destroy them, He also has a plan to one day restore them.
How do you view the people around you? Do you hate them for their arrogance, their sin, their hatred of God, their worship of idols or false gods? Even those who are against God are still loved by God. He weeps at their destruction. Let's not hate them but share Jesus with them.
Lord, you make your love for all the nations clear. We are amazed by your love, not only for other people, but also for ourselves. I was just as much an arrogant sinner as the next guy, but you loved me and saved me. Help me learn to love those around me as you do. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Monday, September 21, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 46 & Jeremiah 47
Chapter 46 tells of the fall of Egypt, a major power in the world at that time. God would bring judgment to Egypt. Note the final two verses. God had not forgotten His people. He promised to bring them back to their land and not completely destroy them. But He still gave the reminder that He would not ignore their sin but would surely punish it.
Chapter 47 tells of the fall of Philistia. The Philistines had been enemies of God's people for a very long time (you may remember that Goliath was a Philistine). God's judgment was soon to come upon them.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
LINKS: Psalm 120, Psalm 121, Psalm 122
Today we begin a series of psalms known as Songs of Ascent which will continue through Psalm 134. They are pilgrim songs, songs sung on the way up to Jerusalem for worship. The Jewish pilgrims sang them as they drew nearer and nearer the presence of God, as they looked forward to entering fully once again the blessings of His love and redemption.
These three psalms vary widely in tone. Psalm 120 is a lament. The psalmist speaks of being wounded by the arrows of someone’s tongue and he cries to God in distress. He longs for peace, but in captivity he has been placed among people who don’t want peace, who prefer to deceive. (The two place mentioned in this psalm, Meshech and Kedar are not only far from
Psalm 121 reassures not only the pilgrim winding his way to
I can never read Psalm 122 without thinking of Sundays when I was a child. It seems there were inevitably squabbles and arguments in the car on the way to church and I can still remember my mom turning around in the front seat, taking a deep breath, and saying brightly, “ ‘I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord!’ Now you three say it with me.” Well, it’s hard to squabble when you’re saying a verse and though we inwardly groaned, it actually worked! I wonder if Jewish mothers sang this song to their children as they dragged their feet up the hills toward
And really, how true is it of me even now? How often to I go to my LORD all the while fuming at someone else, or with an unforgiving attitude, or mentally justifying my side in a disagreement? Going to worship reminds me that I am here, I exist, for God’s sake. If I seek His good, then I will seek the good of my pilgrim companions as well. That puts squabbles in perspective!
Which of these psalms applies most to you today? We worship our LORD every day, but today is the special day of worship, when we gather with others who love the LORD to focus on Him. Have you been living far away from God and you long to return to Him? Are you fearful? Are you in the midst of a quarrel, trying to justify yourself?
Turn your heart and mind to worship God! He keeps us! Two of these psalms mention that
Thank You, Lord, for Your peace and that You keep us on our walk with You. These psalms seem to me to speak of my fragility and helplessness and yes, my self-centeredness. I thank you that my walk with You doesn’t depend on me – but on You! My one task is to keep my eyes on You. Help me to refocus right now on You. Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness – for the peace that You offer all those who come to You in faith.
“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’ “
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 40
This chapter begins with another account of the same event in chapter 39 of the destruction of Jerusalem and what to do with Jeremiah. Apparently Jeremiah was taken with the other captives to Ramah for "processing." There, Nebuzaradan released him and gave him the choice of where to go. Jeremiah chose to stay in the land among those left behind. We assume he ministered to his fellow Jews there.
Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Gedaliah to rule over those who remained in the land, and the army left only the very poorest of people there.
A plot to assassinate Gedaliah was discovered and reported to him by Johanan. Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, was planning to take Gedaliah's life, and Johanan offered to kill Ishmael first. Gedaliah did not believe that Ishmael was planning to kill him . . . .
to be continued in the next chapter . . .
Monday, September 14, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 39
Jeremiah has been preaching for 40 years, and what he said is finally happening here in chapter 39. The city of Jerusalem has been under siege and now the wall is breached by Nebuchadnezzar's troops. The Babylonian leaders held a meeting at the Middle Gate. Although Jeremiah had specifically told King Zedekiah not to try to run from the Babylonians, he fled the city. Nebuchadnezzar's army caught him and took him captive to Babylon. His sons were killed before him, and then his eyes were put out. Zedekiah later died in Babylon. Most of the people of Jerusalem were also deported to Babylon. They left behind the poorest people to tend the land. They would be powerless to rebel and their presence in the land would keep it from becoming a wilderness.
Nebuzaradan, a high officer in the Babylonian army, gave specific instructions concerning Jeremiah. This is a great illustration of how God uses men of position to do His will. He protected Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan. God rescued Jeremiah from death because Jeremiah had trusted in Him. Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah the choice of whether to stay in Jerusalem or go with the captives to Babylon. Jeremiah chose to stay.
God had made a promise to Jeremiah when He first called him to be His prophet. In Jeremiah 1:8, He said, "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you." God keeps His promises.
Think of promises of God that He has kept in your life. Make a list in your journal if you keep one, and thank God for being a God who keeps His promises.
Lord, you are the One true God. You promise that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank You for that great assurance that You are always there and in control. We know that nothing that happens to us is outside of Your control. You are a God who loves, disciplines, nurtures, and cares for Your people. Thank you for making me your child forever, through Jesus, amen.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
LINK: Psalm 119: 129-176
I linked the whole psalm to retain the poetic form. Just scroll down to the verses for today!
Many different words for God’s revelation to his people are used in this psalm. I have wondered if there is any difference in them or if they are synonyms. According to my new
The word law is from the Hebrew word torah, which means “instruction.”
The word testimonies is from the Hebrew word ‘edot, which means “what God solemnly testifies to be his will.”
The word precepts is from the Hebrew word piqqudim, which means “what God has appointed to be done.”
The word statutes is from the Hebrew words khuqqim; khuqqot, which mean “what the divine Lawgiver has laid down.”
The word commandments is from the Hebrew word mitswot, which means “what God has commanded.”
The word rules is from the Hebrew word mishpatim, which means “what the divine Judge has ruled to be right.”
The word word is from the Hebrew words ‘imrah; dabar, which mean “what God has spoken.”
I have read and reread this psalm quite a few times during the past four weeks. Over and over again I am hit by these ideas:
· What God has told us is what is true. It is the way things really are.
· He is telling us the BEST way to live life. He has given his testimonies to us in “righteousness and in all faithfulness.” (138)
· His communication to us is a precious thing and is something to be treasured, something to be longed for and desired.
· Obedience by the believer to the LORD’s revelations produces joy and peace and life and understanding and light.
“Great peace have those who love your law:
nothing can make them stumble.”
I wonder how much of our anxiety and even mental illness is a result of not loving God’s law. It is easy to make excuses for ourselves.
We should learn from this psalmist who ends the psalm this way:
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.”
He responds in humility and repentance to God’s commands. He is not arrogantly assuming that he is able to obey. He KNOWS he strays. He is not relying on obedience to save him. He asks God to seek him, like the shepherd does a lost sheep. He rests in God’s steadfast love, in God’s mercy and forgiveness.
What he doesn’t say is, “Oh, I can’t keep these commands so they don’t matter.”
He doesn’t say, “God’s laws are hard to keep so I’m just going to get rid of some that don’t seem fair.”
Or this, “It’s okay if I just keep a few. I’ll pick the ones I think are most important.”
We live after the cross. We see God’s love and mercy and forgiveness freely offered through Jesus, who died to rescue us. We talk a lot about grace.
But grace is nothing if there isn’t law. If there is no TRUE way to live, then there is no FALSE way. If RIGHT doesn’t matter, then neither does WRONG. There is nothing to forgive if there is no command to keep.
My heart is overflowing with joy and thanksgiving as I write this. God has revealed to us what is right and true and the way we should live. He gives me His word because He wants me to live the way He, in His faithfulness and love, designed me to live. I long to keep His Word! I love His precepts! I hunger and thirst for them.
But I am like a lost sheep. I know I stray. That doesn’t make the commands invalid – it makes me turn to the One who sought me, who died and rose again so that I could be saved. I am His servant. I long to please Him. I thank Him that He keeps on seeking me.
What about you?
Oh triune God, help me not to make excuses for sin. Help me to long for Your word and to use it as a plumb line in my life. Thank You for loving me and seeking me; thank You for finding me! You died in order to rescue me. Help me not to cheapen Your continual grace to me by diluting Your law or ignoring those commands that are difficult. I love You.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 34
Chapters 34-45 are a narrative about the fall of Jerusalem. Chapter 34 occurred during the siege of the city of Jerusalem. At that time, only two fortified cities in Judah had not fallen yet. Lachish was 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and Azekah was halfway in between Lachish and Jerusalem. God sent a message by Jeremiah to King Zedekiah telling him that Jerusalem would fall to Babylon and be destroyed. Zedekiah himself would be captured and would die peacefully in Babylon.
At some point during the siege, Zedekiah and the people had made a covenant with the Lord in the temple to free all the Jewish slaves. According to Jewish law, slaves should have been freed every seven years, but the nation had long ignored that command of God. Now they decided they should free the slaves. Why? We don't know for certain, but probably this was an attempt to manipulate God by doing something He commanded in order to try to get God to do something they wanted, namely to stop the siege.
A calf was slain at the temple and cut in half. The priests and the people walked between the halves as a sign they would obey the terms of the covenant. This symbolized that if they didn't keep the covenant, they would be willing to suffer what the calf had suffered.
The slaves were freed. There was a bit of a let-up in the siege when the Egyptian army got involved. Nebuchadnezzar turned his attention temporarily toward Egypt's army. Then the men in Jerusalem forced all the slaves back into service. They thought they had gotten what they wanted from God, so went back to business as usual.
Sometimes people today do similar things. During an illness or after a serious injury or accident, or in other difficult circumstances, it's not unusual for people to "bargain" with God. "God, if you'll just get me out of this, I'll do xyz for you the rest of my life." Then after the crisis is over, they forget about their promise and go back to living however they lived before.
On the other hand, some of the greatest conversion stories I've heard are when a person was backed in a corner and cried out to God for help. These people have truly changed through the crisis and never go back to the life they lived before.
So, what's the difference? It's all a matter of the heart. The first case is someone trying to manipulate God, while the second is a person who is humbled before God. God is never impressed by our efforts to "do things for Him," but He is "impressed" by our humility. He does not want us to look religious, but wants us to submit and live in obedience to Him.
Lord, you know our hearts even better than we do. Let us see the true condition of our hearts today and seek to be humbled before you and truly love and obey you with our lives. Teach us to follow your ways and live a life that is truly pleasing to you. In the name of Jesus, who makes it possible, amen.
Monday, September 7, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 33
God made a covenant with David when he was king. You might remember it from our BBC study last year in Samuel. It's recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Among other things, God promised that David would have a descendant who would rule on his throne forever. We know that that descendant is Jesus. In Jeremiah 33, Jesus is referred to as the "Branch of David" who will execute justice and righteousness on the earth. God said that just as no one can change day and night, no one can change His covenant with David.
One day God will restore Judah and Israel. And best of all, He will cleanse them from their sin. The nation will bring joy, praise, and glory to God. And the people will fear Him and live in peace. There will be great rejoicing, as that of a bride and bridegroom. And God will make them prosperous again.
The exciting thing is that we don't have to wait for some time in the future to be cleansed from our sin. God will pardon us now, because Jesus already paid the penalty for us. We can be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and restored to a relationship with God forever. So, as Jeremiah quoted from the Psalms, "Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
Thank you for the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. You are a God who is truly good and who loves us. Thank you for your everlasting love for us. Amen.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I have trusted in the LORD since I was a little girl. He was a very real presence in my life even then. I absolutely believed that He loved me, that I was special to Him. I remember lying in my bed at night when I was 8 or 9, talking to God in my mind. I confided secrets to Him. I wondered aloud to Him; I asked Him questions; I sorted through what I’d experienced during the day; I told Him I loved Him; I longed for Him to know that I believed Him, that I trusted Him.
Actually, though, I found myself wondering if simply telling Him I loved Him was enough! I could SHOW my parents my love. I could hug them (and get hugged back!), I could do things for them. It was very dissatisfying to me that I seemed to only be able to
One day, somewhere, I heard the verse from John that says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Those words sank into my heart! I still remember the joy I felt when I realized that I COULD
I think this is the essence of this psalm. It is a poetic statement of the truth that if we love God we will keep His commandments. It is a celebration of the gift of God’s instructions. The psalmist is full of the goodness of God! He understands in his heart that God is who it’s all about, that he belongs to the LORD. He understands that God is the root of all reality and the giver of all good things. He trusts God. He LOVES GOD.
He wants to be wholehearted in his pursuit of God. That’s why he expresses delight in God’s Word. That’s why he loves the LORD’s commands. That’s why he longs for them, hungers for them, fixes his eyes on them. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect; he simply loves God and yearns to express that love through wholehearted obedience.
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek Him with their whole heart …” (v 2)
“…with my whole heart I keep your precepts.” (v 69)
“I am Yours..” (v 94)
“Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.” (v 111)
“I am your servant,; give me understanding,
that I may know your testimonies!
… Therefore I love your commandments
above gold, above fine gold.
Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right;
I hate every false way. (vv 125-128)
What about you? Do you yearn to be whole hearted in your pursuit of the LORD or are you double minded?
Are you keeping God’s commandments because you love Him? Are you giving God lots of hugs? ;-)
Father, help me to yearn for You the way this psalmist did. I love You! Help me to treasure Your commands, Your word, and to be wholehearted in my obedience.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
LINK: Jeremiah 26 & Jeremiah 27
Here we have another account of Jeremiah's sermon at the temple early in his ministry. His message was simple: choose between destruction and obedience. The vast majority of the listeners were angry with his message, and they seized him and sentenced him to death. When the officials heard about it, they came to investigate. Jeremiah gave his defense, and the officials sided with him. Some others stepped forward and agreed that Jeremiah should not be killed.
One of Jeremiah's defenders was Ahikam. He was the son of Shaphan, a servant of King Josiah. Ahikam supervised the cleansing of the temple and determined that the book of the law found in the temple was the authentic word of God.
Now we jump ahead to the reign of Zedekiah (son of Josiah). Jeremiah brings the message that the people will be taken into bondage. In fact, God sends this message to all the countries Judah would ally herself with. God is raising up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to take all these nations into bondage. Judah will serve under the yoke of Babylon. Any who resist it will die. Those who submit to Babylon will be preserved. All the vessels in the temple that Nebuchadnezzar didn't take the first time will be carried off to Babylon. But one day God will restore them and bring them back. The people are warned not to listen to the false prophets who keep telling them that Jerusalem is "safe" simply because it's the home of God's temple.
Lord, you are the one true God whose prophesies come true. Teach us to hear your voice and be obedient to you. Amen.