Day 21: Bad Brothers

Lamentations 4:17-22 :

Our eyes still fail,
looking in vain for our help.
In our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save.

They hunt our steps,
so that we can’t go in our streets.
Our end is near.
Our days are fulfilled,
for our end has come.

Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the sky.
They chased us on the mountains.
They set an ambush for us in the wilderness.

The breath of our nostrils,
the anointed of Yahweh,
was taken in their pits;
of whom we said,
under his shadow we will live among the nations.

Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Edom,
who dwells in the land of Uz.
The cup will pass through to you also.
You will be drunken,
and will make yourself naked.

The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, daughter of Zion.
He will no more carry you away into captivity.
He will visit your iniquity, daughter of Edom.
He will uncover your sins.

As I considered this passage, I found it helpful to recall the history of Israel’s dealings with Edom. When we do that, it’s important to remember the founder of the nation. It was Jacob’s brother Esau that was it’s father. The land of Edom comes from the a twin brother of Israel. You would think that if you wanted help from a nation, it would only be natural to get that help from a group of very close relatives, but that’s not how it went.

When Moses was guiding the redeemed slaves of Israel through the desert, they actually asked the Edomites if they could simply pass through it without staying. Edom not only didn’t invite them to stay a while, they denied them the ability to pass through and even threatened them with harm if they tried.

Things obviously didn’t change over the years after Israel became a strong nation. Now, when they were brought low, Edom continued to keep their distance from Israel. I sense a bit of sarcasm from God here, if I’m reading it right. He says: “Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Edom… You will be drunken, and will make yourself naked.” What I read here is that not only was it their brother Israel’s time of judgment, but it was about to be Edom’s also.

We have some very comforting words at the end of this lamentation. God says: “The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, daughter of Zion. He will no more carry you away into captivity.” What a wonderful thing it is for any of us to hear that our time of judgment is over and that we will have peace with God. That’s why Christmastime so special. It’s when God announced His peace with mankind. What an amazing day that was when God Himself sent angels to tell the world that He was now ready to remove their iniquity.

Day 199: The End of Bad Governments

Jeremiah 50:21-28

“Go up against the land of Merathaim,
even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Kill and utterly destroy after them,” says Yahweh,
“and do according to all that I have commanded you.
A sound of battle is in the land,
and of great destruction.
How the hammer of the whole earth is cut apart and broken!
How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations!
I have laid a snare for you,
and you are also taken, Babylon,
and you weren’t aware.
You are found,
and also caught,
because you have fought against Yahweh.
Yahweh has opened his armory,
and has brought out the weapons of his indignation;
for the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, has a work to do in the land of the Chaldeans.
Come against her from the farthest border.
Open her storehouses.
Cast her up as heaps.
Destroy her utterly.
Let nothing of her be left.
Kill all her bulls.
Let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them! For their day has come,
the time of their visitation.
Listen to those who flee and escape out of the land of Babylon,
to declare in Zion the vengeance of Yahweh our God,
the vengeance of his temple.

In this passage, God gives us two reasons why He chose to destroy Babylon. First He says: “you have fought against Yahweh.” Second, He says he is doing it for “the vengeance of his temple.” As I mentioned before, it was God who commanded Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. It is always right to do what God says. It appears that Babylon’s problem was deeper.

This passage reminds us that it is possible to do the things that God says but still be disobedient in your heart. God expects us to obey because we have decided to do what is right from our hearts. If we are grumbling or complaining when we obey, it isn’t what God wants. In Babylon’s case, they weren’t merely grumbling. God tells us here that they took the opportunity to actually fight against the God of Israel. When Babylon tore down the temple, they did it with evil desire against God, not out of obedience to Him.

Do you remember when Joshua was leading Israel in their conquest of Canaan? There were times when God allowed Israel to lose bitterly. God did this when Israel decided to do something on their own, without God’s blessing. He also allowed them to lose when one of them disobeyed His command to not take plunder. When we are required to serve God in order to maintain justice, God requires that we do it His way. If we don’t, we become a problem to God. God will eventually punish us if we choose to take justice into our own hands. This is something that all governments should be paying close attention to. It should also be comforting to those of us who are persecuted by our governments. All governments that decide to fight against the One who put them in charge, will eventually be judged by Jesus, just like Babylon was.

Day 134: The Reversal of the Captivity of Judah

Jeremiah 31:23-30

Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Yet again they will use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I reverse their captivity: ‘Yahweh bless you, habitation of righteousness, mountain of holiness.’ Judah and all its cities will dwell therein together, the farmers, and those who go about with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”

On this I awakened, and saw; and my sleep was sweet to me.

“Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of animal. It will happen that, like as I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” says Yahweh. “In those days they will say no more,
“ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But everyone will die for his own iniquity. Every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.

You can imagine that Jeremiah had trouble sleeping. God had given him a horrible glimpse into the future; one that involved the annihilation of his people. God had also allowed him to be hated by his own people including being disowned by his own family members. He even had people who wanted to kill him, but it appears that the thing that really kept him up at night was the fact that God’s wonderful plan for Jerusalem and His people Israel was stopping. So, what we have in this chapter is God making it extremely clear that God’s plan for Jerusalem and for Israel was not coming to a complete end. In fact, God intended to make things much better. Here we read that this revelation made it into the heart of Jermiah because he wrote here: “On this I awakened, and saw; and my sleep was sweet to me.” God told Jeremiah that He intended to “reverse” the captivity of Judah. God even refers to himself as: “the God of Israel.” It wouldn’t make sense for God to refer to Himself as the God of those He rejects. Jeremiah was obviously very concerned about God’s people and God’s land and perhaps even panicked when he heard of God’s intention to destroy them. God made sure to help His prophet through these thoughts so that his mind would be at ease. This same God helps us in our times of distress too.

The next section of this passage tells us that the future kingdom of Israel will be governed differently. The current kingdom allowed the children of those who sinned to suffer for their father’s errors. This is clearly not God’s intention and I believe that this is caused by poor government leaders. The reason I make this assertion is because I believe that God is referring to the future messianic kingdom of Israel here. One of the amazing things about the reign of Jesus on earth will be the difference in the speed and precision of justice. The Bible tells us that Jesus will rule with a rod of iron. He won’t be a passive leader at all. The Bible indicates that sinners will get caught immediately under Jesus’ rule. This won’t allow children to be affected by their parent’s sin anymore. There won’t be time for them to learn how to sin from their parents before the parents are publicly exposed and shamed. This may not be what people are expecting of Jesus in His leadership role, but I don’t see how it could mean anything else at this point. I don’t believe that there will be “death row.” People will probably die the day after they murder someone else and children will be given good fathers in their place. It’s hard to imagine Jesus ruling in our time isn’t it? But we should spend some time considering it because Jesus will eventually rule over this sinful world. I may not be right about what this is referring to, but I do know that Jesus will return and rule over this earth for 1000 years and we will see justice like we have never seen before.

Day 123: A Letter from God

Jeremiah 29:8-14

For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you. Don’t listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them,” says Yahweh. For Yahweh says, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says Yahweh, “and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh. I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been violently ripped from your home and made a slave in a country that doesn’t speak your language and does everything differently? Then can you imagine what it would have been like to receive a letter directly from God like this? What a wonderful thing that would be don’t you think? God tells His people that He has “thoughts of peace, and not evil” toward them. That’s quite amazing considering the fact that they were being punished for their rebellion. God tells them in His letter that he wants to give them “hope and a future.” Then He lays out the plan. He intends to wait until they seek Him with all of their heart and then take them back out of their captivity and bring them back to their own land. He even tells them how long it will be. That’s quite a letter.

We have similar times in our lives. There are times when things are so confusing that we don’t really know what to expect tomorrow. Then God gives us hope. He helps us to see His hand in our lives and may even give us a clear vision for several years into the future. God loves us, even though we are sinners and His intention for mankind has been good since the very beginning as we have been reading for several years now.

There’s another important thing that we need to really pay attention to as believers. God can and does speak through dreams. Even in the New Testament, we see examples of this, but that does not mean that God speaks through all dreams. In this letter, God makes that clear. He warns His people that the dreams that the prophets are having there in Babylon are not to be trusted. They were having dreams but those dreams were simply their own. They weren’t from God. I believe that the Bible makes it clear that all truth that is not directly written in the Bible is to be carefully tested. Even good people can have dreams that are more related to stress or a meal that they ate before going to bed. There are even drug related dreams that unbelievers have that could be influenced by evil. We need to remember what God wrote in His letter to us:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.