Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 31: Lamentations 4 – 5; Psalm 103; Proverbs 26:23; Hebrews 2



Overview

            Lamentations: The people of Jerusalem are like holy stones scattered and gold that has changed and worthless. The women have become cruel as children starve. Royalty is brought low. Their punishment is worse than Sodom’s because it was in an instant. The royalty were all beautiful but now they are not recognizable. Those who were killed are happier than those who waste away. Women have eaten their children as the Lord sent his wrath on them.
            No one believed anyone could conquer Jerusalem, but it was done because of the sins of the prophets and priests. They were cast out as unclean and became fugitives. No other nations wanted them. The Lord scattered them.
            The people looked for help but none came. Their days were numbered and they couldn’t escape to the mountains. Their king was captured who they thought would rescue them.
            Edom will rejoice but they will also be punished. Zion has had its punishment, but Edom’s sins will be revealed in its punishment.
            Jeremiah asks the Lord to remember what has happened and see their disgrace. They even have to pay for water to drink and wood to burn. They let Assyria and Egypt rule them for bread to eat. Their fathers sinned and they have to bear the punishment. Those who were slaves now rule and robbers are in the wilderness. Their women are raped, princes hung by their hands, and elders dishonored. They work like slaves and here is no music or dancing but mourning. Woe to them because they have sinned.
            But the Lord reigns forever. Why did God forget them for so long? Jeremiah ask the Lord to restore himself to them if he hasn’t utterly rejected them and remains angry with them.
            Psalm: David praises God from his inmost being, his soul. He praises because of God’s sovereignty in forgiving our sins, healing us, and supplying our needs.
            He praises God for his justice, grace, and mercy. He praises God because he is mindful of our weakness. He elaborates on God’s forgiveness for those who fear him. God has compassion on them like children.
            Though people pass away quickly, God’s steadfast love continues from generation to generation of those who fear him and obey his commandments. It is because God’s throne rules over all.
            David calls on the angels to praise God. They are the ones who do his will. Everyone, everywhere is to praise the Lord.
            Proverbs: Sweet words from a person hide a sinful heart just like the glaze on a jar made out of dirt hides what is underneath.
            Hebrews: The message from angels was severe. But Jesus has spoken to us about salvation, we must pay careful attention so that we don’t drift away from faith. The Holy Spirit has also attested to this by signs and wonders.
            God didn’t give the world to angels, but to man. We were made lower than the angels for a while, but the world is under our rule. This is speaking about Jesus and everything is under his control even though it doesn’t look like it yet. He is given glory and honor because he died for everyone. Since all things exist for him and he brings us to glory, so it is right that he is the one to bring salvation though his suffering.
            Jesus calls us brother and isn’t ashamed of us because he is the sanctifier and he sanctifies us. Since God is the originator of sanctification, Jesus will proclaim God’s name to his brother and we’ll trust in God.
            Since his brothers, God’s children have physical bodies, Jesus took on one as well. That way he could die to conquer death and the devil. He can therefore deliver everyone from the fear of death that has captivated people. Jesus doesn’t help angel but Abraham’s offspring. He had to be fully man to help his brothers and become a merciful and faithful high priest making atonement for us. Because he suffered and was tempted he can help us when we are tempted.

What Stood Out

            Lamentations: “The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem” (Lam 4:12).
            Psalm: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps 103:10).
            Proverbs: “Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart” (Prov 26:23).
            Hebrews: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).

Insight

            Lamentations: There isn’t any glimmer of hope in these last two chapters of Lamentations. The lesson to be learned is that sin always results in catastrophe. The people of Jerusalem trusted in their false prophets, their religious rituals, and the awesomely fortified city to save them. The city was so well fortified and supplied that no one on earth thought it could be conquered. No one beside Nebuchadnezzar, that is. Their pride didn’t help matters either.
            Their punishment was terrible and even as Jeremiah relates it, the one who knew exactly why it was happening, he asks why and how long. Can you imagine the horror and grief that Jesus felt on the cross as he bore all our sins? He died for everyone’s sins (1 John 2:2). That means all this suffering described in Lamentations fell on him, multiplied by all the other people in the world. Note that Jeremiah adds that Edom will also be punished so Jesus took their sins also.
            For every person who does not accept Jesus’ sacrifice for his sins, the horror of his own punishment will be forever. Imagine being in hell and asking how long and the answer is, “forever.” Jesus made it clear that the punishment is eternal and will not cease when he quoted Isaiah’s prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem (Isa 66:24), “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).
            Psalm: Lamentations graphically describes God repaying Jerusalem and Judah for their sins. Then we read in Psalm 103:10 that God does not repay us for our sins. Is the Bible contradictory? How do you answer such a contrast? How do you answer the person who claims the God of the Old Testament is wrathful and angry, not at all like the God of the New Testament?
            When you read Psalm 103, you discover God’s great steadfast love and patience but there is always a condition. Verse 18 reminds us that this is available to those who keep his covenant and his commandments. Lamentations is all about his recompense to those who continually, repeatedly, and blatantly disobeyed God with idol worship, child sacrifices, murder, bribery, adultery, and whatever else they could imagine. Psalm 103 is about obedience and is written by a man who did some of the very same things that caused the destruction of Jerusalem. The difference is that David repented and turned away from his sin. He asked for forgiveness. Then he could write this Psalm about God’s everlasting love.
            We are all in the same sinful boat at one time of our lives. We all deserve God’s wrath because we are dead in our sins. But because of his great love for us, he made us alive in Jesus and are saved by his grace (Eph 2:3-5). Before we start complaining about God’s wrath we must get the big picture of the Bible. That picture must include Jesus on the cross demonstrating God’s love for us so we don’t have to face his wrath.
            Proverbs: Do you ever think about the fact that a mug with a fine glaze on it is covering up dirt? Even worse is the fact that sometimes glaze contains lead and can cause lead poisoning when it wears away.[1] So it is with what we say. We know that our hearts, even after we become Christians, have sin in them. We often cover up the dirt and poison that lies deep in our hearts by saying what is socially correct. We can also view glaze as God’s grace to keep us in check by the power of his Holy Spirit. But that shouldn’t keep us from cooperating with the Holy Spirit to confess our sins and repent.
            Hebrews: The first chapter of Hebrews established that Jesus is 100% God and with the beginning of the second chapter, the author makes sure we understand he not an angel and we really need to listen to him regarding salvation because he died for our salvation. The last part of the chapter weaves in the fact that Jesus is 100% human as well as being God. If he were not human, he would not have been able to die and defeat death’s power over us. If he were not human, he would not be able to become a priest. If he were not a priest, he would not have been able to offer a sacrifice for our atonement. If he were not human, he would not be able suffer. If he were not able to suffer, he wouldn’t have been tempted. If he were not tempted, he wouldn’t be able to help us when we are tempted.
            When we think of salvation we often think only of being saved from our sins and the eternal consequences in hell. That is a big factor of salvation, but there are also other benefits. One is that we no longer have to fear death. We may not like the physical process of death, but we don’t have to fear what happens to us after death. Jesus was resurrected so we know that we will be also. He lives forever, so we will also.
            Another benefit is having someone who can help us resist temptation. Jesus was tempted and knows the power of it, but he didn’t sin. Some people argue Jesus could not sin because he is 100% God and others argue he could have sinned because he is 100% man, but he didn’t. We will never settle that argument and should never let that distract us from the fact that he does help us when we are tempted. He didn’t sin and we don’t have to sin either. When we do, it is because we are not looking for his help and just doing what we want. We don’t have an excuse. We have the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, God in the flesh, who is ready and eager to help us avoid sin. Let’s welcome his help and live a godlier life.

Application

             I need to look at sin the same way God does. It is bad and it has consequences. I need to look to Jesus when I’m tempted and know that I have no reason to do what I want. When I do sin, I need to confess it and repent knowing that God is merciful and has and everlasting love for me.


[1] "Lead in ceramic crockery and pottery-making," Department of the Environment and Energy, accessed October 31, 2017, http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/chemicals-management/lead/lead-in-ceramic-crockery-pottery-making.

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 30: Lamentations 2:20 – 3; Psalm 102; Proverbs 26:21-22; Hebrews 1



Overview

            Lamentations: Jeremiah asks the Lord to see what he has caused. Women eat their children, priest and prophet s are killed along with young and old. The Lord hasn’t shown pity. Terror came like an invitation to a festival.
            Jeremiah speaks as if one man representing the people. He has seen and endured this affliction and suffering. He has been thrown into darkness. He starves and his bones ae broken. He has bitterness and tribulation. He can’t escape his chains. God ignores his prayers. God is like a bear or lion waiting to eat him. God’s arrows pierce his organs and he is ridiculed by others. He has no peace or happiness.
            Speaking for himself, Jeremiah remembers that the Lord’ love and mercy never stop. Every morning his mercy is new; he will hope in the Lord. It is good for a person to wait for the Lord because he is good to those who seek him. It is good to endure suffering when young and learn to be quiet and to turn his cheek to his oppressor. The Lord won’t cause grief forever, but will have compassion. He doesn’t want to afflict people or deny them justice. For, when God speaks it happens and nothing can happen unless he commands it. Therefore, man should not complain when punished for his sin.
            Instead of complaining we should examine our ways, repent, and turn to the Lord. This destruction has happened because of their sins and though they cried out, the Lord didn’t forgive but closed himself from them and gave them to their enemies. Jeremiah weeps for the destruction of his people. He won’t stop weeping until God looks down and sees the destruction. He was hunted like a bird and he called on the Lord who heard him and told him not to fear.
            Jeremiah says the Lord redeemed him after seeing the wrong done to him. The Lord heard the enemy’s taunts and plots. The Lord will repay, curse, and destroy them.
            Psalm: The Psalmist cries to the Lord to hear him in his days of distress. He wants the Lord to answer him quickly. He is physically afflicted with some illness affecting his whole body and kills his appetite. He feels as though he is all alone and that God’s anger has caused his misery. He is withering away.
            But he proclaims that God is sovereign forever and he will have pity on Zion. Nations will fear the Lord because he builds up Zion and listens to the prayers of the afflicted. He wants future generations to know God looks down and sets prisoners free. Future generations will then praise the Lord. They will gather in Zion and worship.
            Even though the Psalmist is losing strength in his midlife and his life is shortened, God lives forever and the future generations will dwell secure and be established by the Lord.
            Proverbs: Some people just feed arguments and strife like wood or charcoal on a fire. There is a weird thing about people who whisper gossip, we take in their words like sweets and they negatively affect our inner being.
            Hebrews: God spoke to us in many ways and the last is in his Son. The Son is heir of everything and created everything. He looks just like God and has the same nature as God. He continues to hold the universe together by his word. The Son also made atonement for sins and is seated at God’s right hand since he is greater and superior to angels.
            God never told an angel that he was his Son. Instead, he has told the angels to worship his Son. The angels are his ministers. God has called his Son, God, and he will rule forever with righteousness because he loves righteousness and hates wickedness. That is why he is anointed above his companions. The Son created the earth, which will perish but he will exist forever even after the earth is worn out and replaced. God never told angels to sit at his right hand while he subjects their enemies to them. No, the angels are ministering spirts who serve people who are saved.

What Stood Out

            Lamentations: “For he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lam 3:33). “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?” (Lam 3:39).
            Psalm: “Let this be recorded for a generation to come ... he looked down from his holy height … to set free those who were doomed to die … that they may declare … the name of the Lord … when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord” (Ps 102:18-22).
            Proverbs: “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Prov 26:22).
            Hebrews: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3).

Insight

            Lamentations: We often have trouble understanding man’s free will and God’s sovereignty. Jeremiah affirms that when God decides something will happen, whether good or bad, it will (Lam 3:37-8). However, it is important to note that man’s will is also imbedded in these passages. For God does not want to bring disaster on people (Lam 3:33) since it is a result of their disobedience. Neither can we blame God when we disobey and he punishes us (Lam 3:39).
            The concept that God does what he wants and we don’t really have a choice stands in opposition to the fact we do rebel and become disobedient doing the things we want in rebellion against him. If we try to understand this with our human reasoning, we can’t reconcile them. Yet when we look though the whole Bible we see that even with our rebellion and sin, God has guided history and individuals to the critical point when Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins and give us eternal life (Rom 5:6).
            We may never understand how this works, but we can give thanks to the Lord that the result is eternal life for those who seek him and find him in Jesus Christ. Whether you believe God’s grace compels us to have faith resulting in salvation or you believe God’s grace enables us to have faith to choose salvation, it is still God’s grace and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
            Psalm: The Psalmist has an eternal and global view of life. His viewpoint is established in his understanding of God. What he is writing will be used so that all people in the future will praise the Lord. They won’t just praise the Lord anywhere, but they will do it in Jerusalem. Psalm 102:25-27 will be quoted by the author of Hebrews when he explains the eternal nature of Jesus.
            If we don’t have an eternal and global view of life, we may miss the bigger picture of what God is doing. Some people look at the effectiveness of their lives, their church, or their mission and wonder if they are stuck in a rut or of no use to the Lord. Rather than doing this, they should look at these things and understand that God took a lowly shepherd and made him a king. They should look at the unnamed prophet who confronted Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13. He made a mistake and was killed by a lion, yet his brief appearance in history help shape what God was doing. The widow that fed Elijah and the woman who provided a place for Elisha both were integral parts of God’s plan but could also be seen as simply living their lives the best they knew how.
            We may never know how God is using us in our mundane lives to accomplish his will. However, there will be a day when we will all gather in Jerusalem to worship the Lord. We are all part his plan to accomplish that.
            Proverbs: Some foods are not really good for us, but we eat them because they taste good. We all have to learn how to stop before they cause a problem. Too many sweets and other delicious foods turn into fat that can wrap itself around our bodies and cause premature death.
            That’s how gossip works. Our sinful nature hears a little rumor and we want to know more. What may have started as a legitimate prayer concern turns into gossip as the words go down into our inner being to wrap around our hearts and open the door for other sins as well. We need to know when to say, “Stop.”
            Hebrews: This first chapter of Hebrews sets the tone for the whole book. It powerfully quotes from the Old Testament to prove that Jesus is not a created being or an angel. He is the eternal God and if you want to see God, all you need to do is see Jesus. This is what Jesus told his disciples (John 14:7-9). This is a foundational truth of the Christian faith. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God and God is Jesus, then you are not a Christian but something else. Any cult that believes Jesus is an angel or that he is a created being that became a god should not be labeled as Christian even though they call themselves that.
            These cults ignore verse 3 and jump on verse 5 saying that God the Father created the Son quoting Psalm 2:7 that the Messiah, his Son, is begotten. These verses must be reconciled because our faith depends on Jesus being God and not just a created being. When Paul presented the gospel to the people of Antioch of Pisidia he said that the Jewish rulers didn’t understand the prophet when they killed Jesus or the meaning of his resurrection. He explained Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfilment of being begotten as God’s son in Psalm 2:7 (Acts 13:26-33). So begotten should not be construed to mean created in the sense of a father conceiving a child but a way of looking at the resurrection.
            Since Jesus is the creator and holds all things together, it is also evident that he couldn’t have created himself. John affirms that in the beginning, which means before anything was created, Jesus was with God and was God. Using the past tense, was, in saying Jesus was God in the beginning also proves that even before the beginning, Jesus is God.
            If we miss the fact that Jesus is God, then we are worshiping the wrong god and I don’t think anyone who worships the wrong god is saved. That is how important it is to know Jesus is God.

Application

             I want to have an eternal view of life. Then I can understand that Jesus is God. I can understand the importance of sharing the gospel with others. I can understand that I’m a part of God’s plan and will work to accomplish it.