Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October 10: Jeremiah 14:11-16:15; Psalm 80; Proverbs 25:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:10 – 3



Overview

            Jeremiah: The Lord told Jeremiah not to pray for the people. He will not listen to them either, but will consume them. Jeremiah replied that the prophets were telling them they would have peace. The Lord answered that the prophets were lying in his name. He will send sword and famine on the prophets as well as the ones who believe them.
            The Lord gave Jeremiah a lament for the people. He cries for them and sees them all killed; the prophets and priests have no knowledge.
            Jeremiah asks if Judah is completely rejected. They looked for peace but got terror. He acknowledges their and their fathers’ wickedness. He asks that the Lord not dishonor his throne and break his covenant with them. None of the false gods can bring rain. They hope in the Lord.
            The Lord answers that even if Moses and Samuel were to ask, he would not save the people. They will die as prophesied. He will kill by the sword, dogs, birds, and beasts. This is the punishment for what Manasseh did in Jerusalem. The Lord asks who will have pity on Jerusalem. They rejected him and that’s why he is destroying them. He has made more widows than the sand of the seas. The woman with 7 sons will lose them all and be shamed and disgraced.
            Jeremiah responds with woe for his mother because everyone curses him. Didn’t the Lord say he would take care of him? The Lord told him to prophecy about the coming disaster. He asks the Lord to take vengeance on his persecutors. God’s words delighted him, he didn’t party but was alone. Why is he suffering? Will God be like a stream that dries up when you want water?
            The Lord answers. Repent and he will restore Jeremiah. If he prophecies what is right they will turn to him but he must not turn to them. God will make Jeremiah like a fortress and they won’t conquer him because the Lord is with him and will deliver him.
            The Lord tells Jeremiah not to take a wife and have kids in Jerusalem because those born there will be die of diseases, sword, and famine; they will not even be buried. Don’t lament or mourn because he has removed peace. No one will console survivors. Don’t join anyone partying now because he will silence the merriment, even weddings.
            Jeremiah is to tell the people when they ask why he prophecies of evil. It is because their fathers rejected the Lord going after other gods and they have done even worse. So, he will kick them out of the land to serve other gods day and night. He will not show mercy. However, there are days to come when he will bring them back from the north.
            Psalm: Asaph has a lament for the condition of Israel. He asks the Shepherd of Israel to hear and stir up his might to save Israel. He asks how long God will be angry with their prayers because he has fed his people with tears. Their enemies laugh at them.
            He recounts how the Lord brought them out of Egypt and planted them like vine that grew and filled the land. Why did he then let others eat of its fruit and wild boar eat it?
            He asks God to turn again and look upon the vine and the son he made strong. He asks God not to turn his back on them but to shine his face on them and restore them.
            Proverbs: These are more of Solomon’s proverbs. It is God’s right to hide things from people but it is the king’s right to try to understand them. It is impossible to know how high the heavens are or the depth of the earth. In the same way it is impossible to know what is in the king’s heart. Like refining silver to produce material for a vessel, keeping wicked people away from the king establishes his throne in righteousness.
            1 Thessalonians: Paul and his companions behaved righteously toward the Thessalonians. Like a father thy encouraged them to walk in the Lord’s ways since they were called into God’s kingdom. Paul and companions were thankful that the Thessalonians accepted their teaching as God’s word and then became imitators of other churches in Jesus Christ in Judea. The Thessalonians suffered in the same things as did the Jewish Christians. The unbelieving Jews killed Jesus and the prophets and drove out Christians. These Jews don’t please God and oppose mankind when they hinder Gentiles from being saved. God’s wrath comes on them for these sins.
            Paul and his companions had to leave Thessalonica and wanted to return but Satan got in the way. Their hope and joy is to boast about the Thessalonians when Jesus comes back. Since they couldn’t go back, they sent Timothy, their brother and coworker in the gospel, to encourage the Thessalonians in the midst of their afflictions.
            The Thessalonians should know that Christians are destined for afflictions. Paul and his companions told them this when they were with them. Because Paul hadn’t heard how the Thessalonians’ faith was holding up under the temptations, he sent Timothy to make sure his labor wasn’t in vain.
            Timothy’s report was good news because the Thessalonians faith, love, and remembrance of Paul and his companions was the same as theirs. The Thessalonians wanted to see them as well. Paul and his companions have joy and thankfulness before God as they pray for the Thessalonians seeking to see them face to face and build up their faith.
            He prays that God the Father and the Lord Jesus will make a way for them to go to Thessalonica. He prays the Thessalonians will abound in love for each other and them and be established blameless and holy before God when Jesus comes again with the saints.

What Stood Out

            Jeremiah: “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them’” (Jer 15:19).                        
            Psalm: “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?” (Ps 80:12).
            Proverbs: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov 25:2).
            1 Thessalonians: “That no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thess 3:3).

Insight

            Jeremiah: Even Jeremiah fell trap to despair when he was attacked for correctly telling what God was going to do. I can imagine he was perplexed and even doubted himself. Had he really been hearing from God? All these other prophets were saying there would be peace and God was telling him there would be disaster. Then on top of it they were threating to kill him for saying what he said. In the middle of his questioning, he even asks God if he is lying to him (Jer 15:18). That’s when God tells him to repent.
            Jeremiah stepped over a line when he accused God of doing wrong. There is only one thing he can do at that point and it is to repent. God also tells him that even when he does and speaks the truth in God’s name, some may act like they are turning to him but he must not trust them. He again promises Jeremiah that he will deliver him from their wicked hands.
            As we see our society becoming more and more evil, we can’t fall into the trap of doubting what the Bible says. Just as Jeremiah heard directly from God, we hear from him in the Bible. We must be careful because there are a lot of people who will take God’s words out of context and come up with false teachings just like the false prophets did. Some are so good at their exegesis that it can make a person doubt. That’s why it is important for us to be diligent in studying for ourselves. We must also be careful to speak the truth and not join them just because they are great preachers.
            When it comes to those who are not saved, it seems like it is harder and harder to witness. They aren’t necessarily hostile to our witness, it’s just that they are trained to think that whatever someone believes is good. As long as we are saying “what is precious, and not what is worthless,” don’t give up.
            Psalm: There isn’t one word in this Psalm about repentance. It is all presented from the perspective that God owed Israel something and he let them down when he sent the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Asaph is presenting a victim mentality that this is all someone else’s fault. In fact, he is even blaming God for the problem (Ps 80:12).
            I’ve heard people say that it is OK to get mad at God because the psalmists did and that is part of God’s word. I believe that the Lord included this Psalm in the Bible as an example of how not to pray. Asaph asks why, but has ignored what God said through Isaiah, Jeremiah whom we have just read, and other prophets. God said he would send these nations as punishment for their wickedness. Moses told them that when they turned to other gods, he would do this. If Asaph is reflecting the mentality of Israel in general, then it is little wonder that God delivered them to their enemies.
            When we do wicked things and the consequences catch up with us, we can’t blame God or other people for it. He will forgive if we repent and turn to him. Look at Daniel’s prayer for Israel in Daniel 9. He admits the sins of Israel and owns them himself. Look at Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1 and 9. He does the same thing. There is admission of sin and repentance before asking for God’s favor. Don’t use this one of Asaph’s Psalms as a pattern for prayer. Use it as an example of how not to pray.
            Proverbs: Proverbs 25:2 is a rather puzzling statement. I paraphrased that it means God has the right to hide things from us and we have the right to try to determine these things. I completely agree that God has things that are hidden. I don’t think we have the right to try to find out what God has hidden. The Message Bible paraphrases this verse saying, “scientists delight in discovering things.” That may be what Solomon was thinking, but I can’t agree that it necessary brings glory to someone or it is even wise. In the physical realm, God hasn’t really hidden anything. He has made the universe and told us how he did it. He didn’t conceal it in any way. We are free to examine and experiment to our heart’s content.
            However, there are some things God has concealed from us. He is omnipotent and omniscient; if he has hidden something then we will never discover it unless he reveals it. To try would be an offence against him because we would think we should have something he has kept from us. One of them is the way evil in the heavenly realm works. In more direct language, God said he has secret things that belong only to him and what he has revealed belong to us and to everyone forever (Deut 29:29). This was in context with the blessing and curses he pronounced upon Israel before they entered the Promised Land. One of the curses would come upon Israel if they started worshiping other Gods. When we start trying to understand how these gods (demons) work and how to please them to get things we want, we have ventured into an area that God prohibited. These include sorcery, fortunetelling, occult, witchcraft, divination, and other synonyms for these dark spiritual things. The inner workings of them are concealed from us and God doesn’t want us involved and he punishes for trying.
            1 Thessalonians: There is an amazing contrast between the destruction and persecution that came upon Israel and Judah and the persecution that comes upon Christians. Over and over, Israel was warned that their sins would bring this destruction on them. Over and over, we are told that Christians are destined to be persecuted because of righteousness and our faith in Jesus (Matt 5:10-11). Israel was told to mourn and wail for their destruction. Christians are to rejoice and be glad about their persecution (Matt 5:12).
            However, Paul was concerned that the affliction the Thessalonians were undergoing would tempt them to leave the faith. In that case, his labor to bring them to the Lord would have been in vain. Peter tells us that some of the persecution is for the specific purpose of weeding out people who don’t have a genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7). Faith that doesn’t remain through trials is not a faith that brings praise, glory, and honor to Jesus.
            I wouldn’t be surprised though, that if someone’s faith crumbled during a trial, God could still turn that person around to have a solid saving faith at a later time. As long as we are alive, we always have time to repent and come to the Lord. Jeremiah had to repent and God used him.

Application

             I want to be prepared to face trial with a faith that will be proved genuine. The best way to prepare is to know that this is to be expected and know the word of God so that I’ll know the way through it (1 Cor 10:13).

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