Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22: Jeremiah 39 – 41; Psalm 90 – 91; Proverbs 26:1-2; 2 Timothy 1



Overview

            Jeremiah: In Zedekiah’s 9th year, 10th month, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. In the 11th year, 4th month, 9th day, they breached the wall and their officials sat in the middle gate. Zedekiah and his army fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army caught them and took them back to Nebuchadnezzar who killed all of Zedekiah’s sons and nobles of Judah. He put out Zedekiah’s eyes and took him captive along with other survivors. The poorest people were left and given vineyards.
            Nebuchadnezzar made sure Jeremiah was not harmed. His officials looked for him and found him in the guard’s court. They entrusted him to Gedaliah to take him home. While he was imprisoned in the guard’s court, the Lord told him to speak to Ebid-melech. He was to tell him that the Lord would fulfil his words against the city but Ebid-melech would be delivered from the Babylonians and be saved because he trusted in the Lord.
            Jeremiah was released from the other captives by Nebuzaradan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard. He told Jeremiah that the Lord did what he said he would do against the city because of their sin. Jeremiah was being released and could go wherever he wanted. He gave Jeremiah him food and a present. Jeremiah went to Gedaliah and lived there.
            Gedaliah was appointed governor and the leaders of Judah’s dispersed army came to him at Mizpah. Gedaliah told them not to fear the Babylonians, serve them, and they will be ok. People who fled to other countries also returned. They started to harvest and settle in the land. The leader Johanan warned Gedaliah that the leader Ishmael was sent by the Ammonite king to kill Gedaliah. Gedaliah didn’t believe him.
            In the 7th month, Ishmael came with 10 of his men and ate with Gedaliah then killed him and the Babylonian with him. He then killed 70 of 80 men who had come to offer grain and incense at the temple. He saved 10 of them because they had food stashed in the country. Ishmael threw the dead bodies into a cistern. He then took captive all the people who had come back to Gedaliah. He intended to take them back to Ammon.
            Johanan heard about Ishmael, so he took his men and caught up with Ishmael and the captives. Ishmael and 8 men escaped to Ammon. The captive people rejoiced and returned with Johanan. Because they feared reprisal from the Babylonian, they went to Geruth Chimham and prepared to flee to Egypt.
            Psalm 90: God is eternal and he has always been there for us. Even though we only live a short time, he is forever. Our lives are brief. Our sins are not hidden from him. So, the Psalmist asks that we consider God’s anger and number our days correctly and live wisely. He asks to be satisfied with God’s steadfast love. He asks that our lives be balanced with good as well as evil days. He asks for God’s favor in all their work.
            Psalm 91: God is our shelter when we abide in his shadow. He is our refuge. He delivers us from evils and shelters us under his wings. We don’t have to fear evils, enemies, or disease. Though thousands fall all around us, the evil won’t come near us. We see this as the recompense of the wicked. No evil befalls those who make God their refuge. God’s angels protect us and we can even tread on snakes and scorpions. God says he will deliver the one who holds to him and calls on him. He will give him long life and salvation.
            God says he will deliver and protect those who love him and know his name. He will answer when we call and deliver us from trouble. He will give us long life and salvation.      Proverbs: Giving honor to a fool is as out of place as snow in the summer or rain in the harvest. Birds fly around and don’t stay long in one place; curses that are unjust are the same and don’t cause harm.
            2 Timothy: Paul writes again to Timothy. He pronounces a blessing of grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
            Paul thanks God as he remembers Timothy in his prayers. He longs to see Timothy and be filled with joy. He remembers Timothy’s faith, the same as his mother’s and grandmother’s. He reminds Timothy to fire up his gift from God that he received because God has given everyone a spirit of power and self-control instead of fear.
            Therefore, Timothy should not be ashamed of the gospel or of Paul but share in the suffering by God’s power. God saved us not because of works but for his own purpose given through Jesus from eternity past. This is revealed by Jesus who conquered death and brought eternal life through the Gospel. Paul suffers because he was appointed to proclaim this gospel. Paul isn’t ashamed because he knows Jesus whom he has believed. Jesus will guard the gospel until he comes back.
            Timothy is to follow Paul’s example by the power of the Holy Spirit.
            Paul acknowledges that Timothy is aware of those who abandoned him in Asia. But he prays for mercy on Onesiphorus who helped Paul and wasn’t ashamed of him being in prison. He came to Rome and found him. Paul asks that the Lord grant him mercy as he also served in Ephesus.

What Stood Out

            Jeremiah: “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time” (Jer 39:10).
            Psalm: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps 90:2).
            Proverbs: “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight” (Prov 26:2).
            2 Timothy: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Tim 1:8).

Insight

            Jeremiah: For a long time, Jeremiah told the people that if they surrendered to the Babylonians, it would go well with them. Most didn’t believe what God told them through Jeremiah. They stayed in the fortified cities and most of them were killed. Of the few who survived and those who did surrender, most were taken captive to Babylon. However, the few who were left were poor people, the ones that the Babylonians probably didn’t want. Yet they were given property and expected to make the best of it.
            These people who remained behind were not the wisest of the people because they still didn’t listen to the Lord. The intrigue and conspiracies that followed only bounced them from one bad situation to another. They seemed to have no say in what they were to do or where they were to go (just like anyone who is not saved). At first, it seemed they would have a future when they settled with Gedaliah at Mizpah. But the Lord had warned them that the sword would follow them if they didn’t surrender.
            Ishmael’s allegiance to the Ammonites brought senseless slaughter. Johanan’s and their fear set them up to continue to disobey the Lord. Instead of settling and living in the land of Judah, they intended to go to Egypt; something the Lord had expressly told them not to do.
            When we are making all our decisions contrary to the Lord, it never gets easier. The Lord doesn’t give up and his word will always accomplish what he says. Even the disaster that came upon Jerusalem and Judah didn’t convince the people to repent and obey God. Some people truly turn to the Lord when they face tough times. Others continue to rebel and others quickly go back to their sinful ways when thing are better. How much better it is to understand and know that the Lord has our best interests in mind and turn to him without having to face his discipline. When trouble hits, it is good to trust the Lord knowing he is building our character rather than disobeying and causing more pain.
            Psalm: God’s eternality is a very important part of who he is. Some of the early Christian apologists, those who attempt to philosophically prove the existence of God, state things like, “Since we can imagine there is a being who is eternal, there must therefore be One who is eternal. Since we are not eternal that means that the One who is eternal must be God.” That is a poor representation of their arguments, but it reminds me that God must be eternal to be God. Otherwise there would have to be someone or something that created him and that would necessarily be God.
            The fallacy of many religions is that they have multiple gods. None of them is eternal. They were created by other gods or the circumstances of nature. Atheists believe that the material world is god. They attribute to it the property of self-existence or eternality. They fall into the same trap as other religions, believing that serving the lesser “being” is somehow better than serving the ultimate eternal being who made everything, God.
            Because God is eternal and therefore self-existent, all other things must be created by him or they would also have the same attributes and they don’t. That means we were created by him. Therefore, we are indebted to him and he has the right to do with us as he wants. He has every right to expect us to worship and obey him. If we are wise in numbering our days, we will do that.
            Proverbs: Some people believe that curses have a real affect. They are usually superstitious people who are not acquainted with God. There is only one who can curse and it means anything. That is the Lord. He told the people of Israel about the blessings and curses, blessings for those who obeyed him and curses for those who didn’t. Rather than fearing curses like Voodoo or other witchcraft religions, we should be concerned with God’s curses.
            The good news is that Jesus has taken all of the curses upon himself when he died on the cross (Gal 3:13). When we place our faith in Jesus for our salvation, we don’t have to worry about any curses because they are nailed to the cross. The curses won’t come on us. That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want, but the curse of eternal punishment for those who don’t know Jesus will not be ours. He has given us eternal life and will never take it away (John 5:24).
            2 Timothy: Paul mentions being ashamed three time in this chapter. Apparently, some of the people that abandoned Paul were ashamed because he ended up in prison. Perhaps they were ashamed because they were thinking that anyone who proclaimed the gospel would be free from persecution and would have God’s blessings on them. It certainly is a message that some preach today. Clearly if that is what the gospel says, and a person is persecuted, then they should be ashamed. But Paul makes it clear that that suffering comes along with the gospel.
            If you don’t think that’s true, try to walk into a pagan religion’s area of influence and start preaching about Jesus Christ. You will quickly find out that the gospel is not about prosperity and good health. It is about eternal salvation and is in direct opposition to all other religions.
            We need to be reminded that in spite of its offence, God has also given us a spirit of power and self-discipline instead of fear. That doesn’t mean we blindly invite persecution, but we don’t cower because of it and stop sharing the gospel. Paul tells us that the gospel will continue to be preached until “That Day” (2 Tim 1:12) when Jesus comes back. It appears that Timothy was starting to be afraid and Paul urged him to fan his gift into flame. We need to do the same thing.

Application

             I need to do some fanning and be bolder about sharing the gospel. Blogs are one thing but face to face proclamation of the gospel is also what we’re called to do. If any curses are heaped on me as a result, I know that they are powerless because of Jesus’ death on the cross. I need to act with that in mind.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October 21: Jeremiah 37 – 38; Psalm 89:38-52; Proverbs 25:28; 1 Timothy 6



Overview

            Jeremiah: Zedekiah was ruling but he and the people didn’t listen to the words of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah. Jeremiah was not yet imprisoned, and Zedekiah sent word to him asking him to pray for him. Egypt’s army was heading north, and Babylon’s army left Jerusalem.
            The Lord gave words to Jeremiah for Zedekiah. The Egyptians would turn back and Babylon would come back to Jerusalem, fight capture, and burn it. Zedekiah was not to deceive himself thinking the Babylonians won’t come back or he could defeat them. Even their wounded could burn the city.
            When the Babylonians withdrew, Jeremiah tried to go to Benjamin to take possession of his field. He was accused of desertion and the officials beat him and put him into prison. Zedekiah sent for him after many days and asked in secret if the Lord had said anything to him. Jeremiah replied that Zedekiah would be delivered to Nebuchadnezzar. Then he asked Zedekiah not to send him back to the dungeon or he would die. Zedekiah put him in the court of the guard and gave him a daily loaf of bread until none was available.
            Some of the officials heard Jeremiah telling people from the Lord that they would die if they stayed in the city but would live if they surrendered to the Babylonians. The city would be given to the Babylonians. The officials wanted the king to execute Jeremiah because he was weakening the soldiers instead of seeking their welfare. Zedekiah caved in and let them do to Jeremiah what they wanted. They threw him into a cistern that was full of mud but no water. He sank into it.
            Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch from Zedekiah’s staff told the king it was an evil deed tossing Jeremiah in the cistern where he would die. The king told him to take three other and lift him out. They rescued Jeremiah.
            Zedekiah again sent for Jeremiah and asked what the Lord said. Jeremiah was afraid he would be killed if he answered. The king swore he would not kill him. So, Jeremiah told him the same thing and more. Zedekiah was afraid that if he surrendered, the Jews who deserted would harm him; but Jeremiah assured him if he would surrender and obey God, his life would be spared. Jeremiah related a vision he had that would come true if Zedekiah refused to obey. It included the disaster predicted against him, his wives, children, and the city.
            Zedekiah made Jeremiah promise he would not tell the officials the details of their conversations, but tell them that he asked not to be sent back to the dungeon. The officials asked, and Jeremiah answered as instructed. Jeremiah remained in the guard’s court until Jerusalem fell.
            Psalm: Ethan has finished talking about how great God is. Now he starts complaining that God has abandoned Israel and gone back on his promises. He accuses God of causing all the problems for Israel in fourteen different ways (Ps 89:38-45).
            He then asks how long God is going to ignore them. After all, their lives are short and they can’t wait long. They won’t live forever. He wants to know where God’s steadfast love is because they have to endure the enemy’s insults.
            Then he says, “Blessed be the Lord forever” (Ps 89:52)!
            Proverbs: A person without self-control has no boundaries or protection from evil, like a city that has had its walls torn down.
            1 Timothy: People who are slaves should honor their master so that people won’t speak badly about God and Christian teaching. If their masters are believers, they should serve all the more respectfully.
            Paul tells Timothy to teach these things. If anyone teaches things contrary to correct doctrine about Jesus and godliness, he is proud and without understanding. He loves controversy, quarrelling, and causing all kinds of problems among people who have depraved minds and think godliness will financially benefit them.
            Godliness is great gain but not materially because we can’t take material stuff with us when we die. We should be content with food and clothing. People who strive for riches only run into spiritual trouble that causes ruin. Loving money causes all kinds of evil.
            But Timothy must flee all this. Instead he is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. He is to embrace eternal life as he confessed before many. Paul charges him in the presence of God and Jesus (who gave his testimony to Pilate) to be obedient and blameless until Jesus appears again. God (who is the Sovereign, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only immortal one, lives in blinding light, no one has seen or can see, is honored, and has eternal dominion) will bring Jesus back at the proper time.
            Tell people who have material riches not to be proud and set their hope on things but on God who has provide stuff for their enjoyment. They are to do good by sharing what they have as that stores up for their eternal future.
            Timothy should guard all this that God has entrusted to him. He is to avoid babble that some think is knowledge and have led some astray from their faith.

What Stood Out

            Jeremiah: “Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and against this land’?” (Jer 37:19).
            Psalm: “You have …” (Ps 89:38-40, 42-45).
            Proverbs: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov 25:28).
            1 Timothy: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12).

Insight

            Jeremiah: Jeremiah continually prophesied that Babylon would come against Jerusalem. He was imprisoned because of it. All the other prophets were foretelling peace and didn’t suffer because of it. When Jeremiah’s prophecy came true, he was still abused, but what happened to those other prophets? They should have been stoned because that was the Law (Deut 18:20-22).
            There are too many self-proclaimed prophets today. They distort God’s word or presume to speak for God. They tell us that many of the evils that God abhors are good and right. They say the Lord is coming back on a particular day and it doesn’t happen. Where are they now? 99.9% of them are still in pulpits and simply keep teaching falsehoods and predicting things that don’t happen. They will all receive their just reward from the Lord.
            Then there are people who are like Jeremiah. He continued to faithfully speak the word of God and he suffered for it. It looked like he would die in the dungeon or in the mud of the cistern, but God rescued him from both. He continued to do what was right even though he was criticized and abused for it. I wonder how many of us would keep up that kind of ministry in today’s world? I’m sure many do in other parts of the world, but few do in the West because they fear political fallout. They don’t want to lose their tax exemption or be threatened with a law suit. We should put eternity into perspective with these lighter temporal threats and do what is right as Jeremiah did.
            Psalm: I was really enjoying the first part of this Psalm. God’s glorious attributes were being exalted. Then today’s reading was a real bust. Like some of the other Psalms, Ethan starts blaming God for all their problems. He goes even further and blatantly says God has violated his covenant. But wait! There’s more! God’s steadfast love is brought into question.
            God’s covenant had two parts, one was blessings for obedience and the other was curses for disobedience. God didn’t forget or renounce his covenant. He was fulfilling the part where he would turn them over to their enemies if they disobeyed and went after other gods. His steadfast love was working to bring them back to himself. It is a tough love. Jeremiah had to keep reminding them of this when Judah was breaking the covenant and was suffering the curses.
            Ethan also tells God that he should work on his schedule instead of God’s. He blames God for creating mankind with a short lifespan. Tell that to Adam and Eve. God created man with a long lifespan and in fact an eternal one. With our eyes on the temporal, we will never get an eternal perspective. We will end up blaming God for everything.
            Proverbs: Self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a person cannot exercise true self-control without having the Holy Spirit. While some people who are without the Holy Spirit are able to exhibit self-control about worldly things, they are unable to do so about sin. They may think they are, and it may even look like they are, but without the motivation to please God, all their self-control for temporal things (1 Cor 9:25) is still sin.
            Even for Christians, the lack of self-control is one of Satan’s means of temptation (1 Cor 7:5). We must then depend on the Holy Spirit to maintain self-control and keep up the boundaries that shield us from sin.
            1 Timothy: Timothy was told to take hold of eternal live. How do we take hold of eternal life? It is a gift that we receive from the Lord by grace through faith. In accepting this gift, we take hold of it or embrace it by recognizing the gift comes with responsibilities as well as benefits and privileges (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).
            One of the ways to embrace eternal life it to be a good witness. We tell others how we are saved and the difference it has made in our lives. We can tell them about our magnificent God who raised Jesus from the dead and will bring him back again. (1 Tim 6:12, 15, 16.)
            We embrace eternal life by being obedient and godly instead of following all sorts of strange teachings. Some of these are only designed to make someone proud instead of humble before the Lord and others. They are designed to stir up trouble instead of embracing eternal life. (1 Tim 6:3-5, 11).
            We can embrace eternal life by being content with what we have in this world. If we have riches, we can be generous and share. Doing so is embracing the fact that what we have here is to be used to help others and that provides eternal rewards. (1 Tim 6:6-10)

Application

             I want to be self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is a great protection from evil. I also want to embrace eternal life in the same way. That means focusing on eternity more than on the things of this life.