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.

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