Day 185: Trusting in our Works and Treasures

Jeremiah 48:1-9

Of Moab. Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says:
“Woe to Nebo!
For it is laid waste.
Kiriathaim is disappointed.
It is taken.
Misgab is put to shame
and broken down.
The praise of Moab is no more.
In Heshbon they have devised evil against her:
‘Come! Let’s cut her off from being a nation.’
You also, Madmen, will be brought to silence.
The sword will pursue you.
The sound of a cry from Horonaim,
desolation and great destruction!
Moab is destroyed.
Her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.
For they will go up by the ascent of Luhith with continual weeping.
For at the descent of Horonaim they have heard the distress of the cry of destruction.
Flee! Save your lives!
Be like the juniper bush in the wilderness.
For, because you have trusted in your works and in your treasures,
you also will be taken.
Chemosh will go out into captivity,
his priests and his princes together.
The destroyer will come on every city,
and no city will escape;
the valley also will perish,
and the plain will be destroyed, as Yahweh has spoken.
Give wings to Moab,
that she may fly and get herself away:
and her cities will become a desolation,
without anyone to dwell in them.

An interesting thing about God’s punishment of Judah, is what He did to the nations around them. These nations were all enemies of the God of Israel for a long time, but God had allowed them to exist. I believe that the Bible indicates that God was waiting for them to repent and turn to Him. After all, they were right next to the nation of Israel. They were privileged to know how much God would do for those who love Him. In a very real sense, nations like Moab had more responsibility because they had more knowlege about God. Here we read that God not only pronounced punishment for Egypt, but also for Moab.

In this passage God gives a reason for His judgment. He tells Moab: “you have trusted in your works and in your treasures.” We could say this in a more modern way. We could say: “you have trusted in your career and in your wealth.” Even if you don’t worship a particular “god,” it’s possible to be judged for trusting in your money and position. That has obvious application to American culture as I write this. The Bible doesn’t tell us here, but God had already made clear what Moab should have done. Let’s go back in Jeremiah and see what God told Israel.

Jeremiah 5:25-29

“Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withheld good from you. For wicked men are found among my people. They watch, as fowlers lie in wait. They set a trap. They catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit. Therefore they have become great, and grew rich. They have grown fat. They shine; yes, they excel in deeds of wickedness. They don’t plead the cause, the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and they don’t defend the rights of the needy.

“Shouldn’t I punish for these things?” says Yahweh. “Shouldn’t my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

God expects us to help the orphans and the needy. When we accept God’s resources and don’t help others, we tend to start trusting in the things God gives us instead of in Him. We may even excuse our hoarding by saying that we are just making sure we are safe. That sound’s good at first but is it money that makes us safe in an ultimate sense? If we stop giving to others, it’s a bad sign. We may be trusting in our jobs and in our wealth instead of in our God and that’s a punishable offense.

Day 158: Ebedmelech the Ethiopian

Jeremiah 38:7-13

Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon (the king was then sitting in Benjamin’s gate), Ebedmelech went out of the king’s house, and spoke to the king, saying, “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon. He is likely to die in the place where he is, because of the famine; for there is no more bread in the city.”

Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take from here thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies.”

So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there rags and worn-out garments, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Now put these rags and worn-out garments under your armpits under the cords.”

Jeremiah did so. So they lifted Jeremiah up with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon; and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

My guess is that there were quite a few Israelis who knew what was done to Jeremiah, but none of them had the nerve to talk to the king about it. This is one of those places in history where God used a foreigner, who also happened to be a servant, to change history by doing something of obvious good. When he saw that Jeremiah had been put in the well and left to die, he took a risk and went to the king. He obviously knew the king pretty well because he appears to have had a sneaking suspicion that the king would not approve of the situation. He turned out to be right and the king ordered Ebedmelech to take 30 men and get Jeremiah out of the well.

Getting Jeremiah out was not an easy operation. Ebedmeleck had to head up an actual project, which included the engineering of a system to successfully extract Jeremiah safely from the mud. Ebedmelech was successful and now his name is forever recorded in God’s word for all eternity. Ebedmeleck the Ethiopian will always be recognized as the man who used his abilities to save God’s servant Jeremiah at the lowest point in his life. It would be safe to assume that Ebedmelech is quite rich in heaven now.

There are many people around us who are experiencing the lowest times in their lives. If we are in a place in which we can help them in some way, it’s in our best interest to do it. One of the most wonderful things about modern technology is that it allows us to access so many people in need. When you couple that with the ability we have in the United States to earn money in a capitalist economy, it gives us an unparalleled opportunity to give directly to those in need. Socialists just don’t have that opportunity and many of the world’s Christians are trapped in socialist countries. Now Ebedmeleck was probably in a pretty nice position if he had access to the king. Even so, it’s hard to imagine a person more trapped than Ebedmeleck the Ethiopian. He was trapped as a servant in a city without bread under siege. The idea of having money was probably laughable, let alone having a good future in this world. I am guessing that Ebedmeleck was given the wisdom to see that what he needed was for God to come through for Him in the future, whatever that might be, and Jeremiah’s words brought that hope to him.

Day 100: Poorly Handling Prosperity

Jeremiah 22:20-23

“Go up to Lebanon, and cry.
Lift up your voice in Bashan,
and cry from Abarim;
for all your lovers have been destroyed.
I spoke to you in your prosperity;
but you said, ‘I will not listen.’
This has been your way from your youth,
that you didn’t obey my voice.
The wind will feed all your shepherds,
and your lovers will go into captivity.
Surely then you will be ashamed
and confounded for all your wickedness.
Inhabitant of Lebanon,
who makes your nest in the cedars,
how greatly to be pitied you will be when pangs come on you,
the pain as of a woman in travail!

It is true that when trouble comes it reveals something about us. When we are in trouble, we find out who we really call out to for help, but this passage shows us something else. What about how we handle prosperity?

Prosperity was Israel’s main problem and I think that it is ours as well. When God gives us prosperity, do we become proud and rebellious and stop trusting in God? That’s what God says about Israel here. Remember that Israel would cry out to God for help when they were in trouble, but as soon as things got good again, they went on with their sinning.

It’s pretty clear that times of prosperity reveal the desires of our hearts. When we have all that we need, what do we choose to do with what we have? As Christians, we choose to give. Our flesh, however, may rise up during times of prosperity and influence us to waste it. The Holy Spirit will bring that to mind and we need to listen and turn away from our fleshly desire to rebel against what God wants us to do. Times of prosperity can be times of temptation.

We have a great example of a man who chose to avoid the temptation of wealth and power. Instead of taking it for himself, he chose to help slaves. I’m talking about Moses. God tells us that he chose to take his reward from God and to lay down his right to become a king in Egypt on earth. Instead, he allowed God to use him to fight for his own people’s release from slavery. He had to run away and become a shepherd for 40 years and then at 80 had to take on a new career as a leader of a very rebellious people. He may not have become king of Egypt, but he did have the privilege of talking to God Himself as a friend and God remarks about it in the Bible.

Israel’s rebellion ultimately cost them their country. No wonder Moses had such a hard time with them. They were living in opposite ways. Because Israel chose to run after other gods and refused to listen to God, they ended up alone with nothing, but Moses ended up with a reward that no one could take away.