Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29: Lamentations 1 – 2:19; Psalm 101; Proverbs 26:20; Philemon


            Lamentations: Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem. He relates the city to a widow who has lost everything and become a slave. She weeps for her lovers and none came to comfort her. Judah has gone into exile but finds no rest. There is mourning because no one comes to the festivals. Her foes rule over her because the Lord punished her for her sins that were grievous. She didn’t think of her future when she sinned. Everything has been taken away.
            The people are starving and searching for food. They cry out to the Lord about the extent of their affliction. They admit that it is because of their transgressions. The Lord is right in doing it because they have rebelled. Their idols deceived them, their enemies heard about them and do not help. They ask the Lord to deal with their enemies as he has dealt with them.
            The Lord has done all this to Jerusalem and destroyed his footstool. The nation is fallen in dishonor. In his anger he has done this and killed the mighty ones of Israel. He has made its fortified cities in ruins. He didn’t restrain himself but let the walls be destroyed. The Law is gone and prophet have no visions. The elders are silent as they mourn. Jeremiah is spent and sick in his weeping. The children cry for food and they die in their mother’s lap. Jeremiah doesn’t know what he can say to comfort them and heal them. Their prophets gave them false hope and didn’t warn them of their sins. Other people who pass by scorn the city that had been thought of as perfect in beauty. Her enemies delight in her destruction. The Lord carried out his word in all of this. The people cry out to the Lord for rest.
            Psalm: David sings of God’s loving kindness and justice. He then expresses his own integrity and how he has been blameless. He will not let evil people be around him but only the faithful in the land. He will destroy the wicked of the land.
            Proverbs: Strife stops when we stop telling others about it just like a fire without wood.
            Philemon: Paul writes to Philemon while he is in prison. After greeting his friend and others who meet in his house church, Paul blesses him with grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He also thanks God in his prayers because of the love Philemon has for all the saints. He prays that Philemon sharing his faith with others will help him in his knowledge of Jesus.
            The reason he is writing is to ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus. Onesimus was a runaway slave who ended up in prison with Paul and Paul led him to the Lord. Now, Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon though he would have liked to keep him and have him minister to Paul, but he wouldn’t do that without Philemon’s permission.
            He wants Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as a brother in Christ who will be more useful than the was before. Paul asks Philemon to charge Paul for anything Onesimus owes. He reminds Philemon that he owes Paul his life.
            Paul is sure that Philemon will do all this and even more. He asks Philemon to prepare him a guest room because he hopes to be released soon because of their prayers. Other with Paul send greetings. He asks for grace from the Lord Jesus to be with Philemon’s spirit.

What Stood Out

            Lamentations: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future” (Lam 1:9). “The law is no more” (Lam 2:9).
            Psalm: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Ps 101:3).
            Proverbs: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases” (Prov 26:20).
            Philemon: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philem 6 NIV).


            Lamentations: As Jeremiah and the survivors mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem, two things stand out. The first is that the people finally admit they have transgressed God’s law and while they were still sinning, they didn’t consider what their sin would cost them. The second thing is that the Law is gone.
            It is important to admit to sin, because without admission, there can’t be any repentance. Without repentance there will be no forgiveness. However, now that the people have repented, they don’t have any way to approach God. According to the Law, when they admit their guilt, they would have to bring an animal sacrifice. But the altar for the sacrifice is gone. The temple is gone. The ark of the covenant is gone. There is no way for them to know they are forgiven according to the Law. They have great reason to lament.
            After the Babylonian captivity, they rebuilt the altar and the temple, but the ark of the covenant was never restored. The day of atonement was never satisfied again until Jesus died on the cross. The necessity of the new covenant is revealed in the fact that without the altar, temple, and ark of the covenant, the people could not have full assurance of God’s forgiveness according to the Law. However, in Jesus, we know that not just Jews, but all people in all nations can have full assurance of forgiveness. Jesus declared at the Last Supper that his blood established the new covenant and the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28). Paul affirmed the same thing in Ephesians 1:7. We don’t want to be like the people of Jerusalem who didn’t think ahead about the consequences of their sin because those consequences are eternal. Salvation is now only through Jesus, the only remedy for the consequences of our sins.
            Psalm: There are times when David doesn’t show one bit of mercy or grace to other people. In Psalm 101:3, he juxtaposes his faith in his own ability to keep from sinning with those who fall away from the Lord. While we want to applaud David for his strength in the face of temptations, we know he ended up on the wrong side of this comparison when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband. When he was finally convicted of sin, he could more truthfully say he hated his own works when he fell away.
            It is a good lesson for us to not be too confident in our own abilities to keep from sinning. We do have confidence, but it isn’t in ourselves. Our confidence is in God, who makes us able to minister to others (2 Cor 5:4-6). We can minister all the better when we recognize our own sinfulness and grant grace to others. If we don’t, we are likely to think we are invincible and fall (1 Cor 10:12).
            Proverbs: If you want to keep bitterness and animosity going with another person, just keep telling others about it. Whether it gets back to the other person or not, you will not let it go and there will be not forgiveness or reconciliation.
            Philemon: Philemon doesn’t have much in the way of theological discussion since it is a very personal letter. However, we can learn a lot about how to treat brothers and sisters in Christ.
            We should not use our position of influence to brow beat others into doing what we think is right even if it is. Paul certainly gave Philemon plenty of reasons to accept Onesimus back and to forgive him. But he still made it clear that this was Philemon’s decision.
            Paul was also consistent in his teaching about the relationship between slaves and masters. They are to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. While there is the suspicion that Philemon may have treated Onesimus differently had he not come to Christ, we believe that in becoming a Christian himself, Philemon learned that he needs to treat everyone fairly. This comes from Paul’s prayer that Philemon should be more active in sharing his faith so that he can understand better the good things we have in Christ.
            When we are active in sharing the gospel, we stop seeing people as slaves, employees, bosses, masters, black, white, other colors, evil, or good. We see people who are captive to sin and need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When someone comes to Christ we see them as part of our family and not just in the worldly relationship that existed before. Jesus changes us, and he changes others.


             I want to make sure I don’t ignore my sins and think I’ve got it all together or not consider the consequences of my sins. I want to be able to extend grace to others and share the gospel with them. I need to do a better job at looking at other Christians as brothers and sisters.

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