Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
Grace simply means “favor.” Here, it is a word used to describe how God favors us, and that because he favored us we have peace with God. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, our punishment was paid for. Before this was done, we were not at peace with God. There was a division between us.
God is a just God, and because of this, He does not allow any sin to go unpunished. In the Bible, forgiveness doesn’t mean to “allow to go unpunished.” With God, no sin goes unpunished. Actually, the punishment for sin is death and Jesus took that punishment for the sins of the world (past, present and future; and yes it includes horrible sins like murder, sexual sins, etc.)
God’s kind of favor is the kind that we definitely don’t deserve. We are sinners and He chose to pay for our sins at a significant cost to Himself rather than destroy us. Our peace, on the other hand, comes from an act of justice. The death of Jesus was the legal payment for our sin. We are rightfully free of our sin when we believe in the fact that Jesus paid for it. That is how we are “Saved.” Now God has made Jesus “Lord” over everything. God was very pleased with Jesus. He did exactly what He was supposed to do. As believers, we also recognize that Jesus is “Lord,” because by Him we are saved.
Because of what Jesus has done, God is now our Father. This is mentioned many times in the book of John too. It is sometimes hard to believe that we are that important, but the Bible makes it very clear that we are, and that God really is our Father. We are forgiven, and at peace with God now. We are greatly loved, and we have His favor.
“As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall, so the slain of all the land will fall at Babylon. You who have escaped the sword, go! Don’t stand still! Remember Yahweh from afar, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”
“We are confounded because we have heard reproach. Confusion has covered our faces, for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house.”
“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that I will execute judgment on her engraved images; and through all her land the wounded will groan. Though Babylon should mount up to the sky, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet destroyers will come to her from me,” says Yahweh.
As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that there is an epic theme that emerges. It could be called: “The Tale of Two Cities.” I’ve been told that Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible after Israel and that makes sense. These two are in conflict with one another. Babylon represents the world and Israel represents God. The world is involved in idolatry and God’s city isn’t supposed to do that. There was a time when God had Babylon destroy Israel, but these verses of Jeremiah help us to see that there is more going on here. God wasn’t done with Israel or Babylon yet.
The world “holy” means: separate. The Bible tells us that God is holy. In a sense, He is separate from both Israel and Babylon and verses like these remind me of that. God intended for Israel to be the city that demonstrated His holiness by showing the world who He is, but instead, they decided to practice idolatry. So, God had them destroyed, but that didn’t let Babylon off the hook for their idolatry. God was still planning to destroy Babylon too, as we read here. God’s holiness will not be disturbed by any city. If anyone chooses to worship another god, they will be destroyed no matter how they started out. In this sense, the two cities became the same for a while, but why would God allow that?
I believe that this shows us yet another epic theme and that is the theme of grace. God allowed Israel to fall into sin so that He could save them by grace. Their works were not allowed to save them. Instead, God’s city was to rise up out of the ashes as a city blessed by the grace of God, not by works, so that no one could boast. Those who trust in their own works cannot build a city strong enough to withstand Babylon, but those who have been saved by God’s grace, rest on the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must first save Israel and when Israel rises up by grace, the Holy Spirit will make it unstoppable.
Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will punish Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with her gods and her kings, even Pharaoh, and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants. Afterwards it will be inhabited, as in the days of old,” says Yahweh. “But don’t you be afraid, Jacob my servant. Don’t be dismayed, Israel; for, behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob will return, and will be quiet and at ease. No one will make him afraid. Don’t be afraid, O Jacob my servant,” says Yahweh, “for I am with you; for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but I will not make a full end of you, but I will correct you in measure, and will in no way leave you unpunished.”
One of the interesting things that I see in this passage is that God intended for Egypt to be “inhabited, as in the days of old.” His prophesy against Egypt was not permanent and God makes a small statement about that here. Then, God goes on to reassure His people Israel for the rest of this passage.
There is an interesting contrast between Israel and Egypt, and Babylon. God promises that both Israel and Egypt will rise again, and also says to Israel: “I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you.” God says that His punishments against Israel are measured, or have a limit. I think that this spells out the difference between how God disciplines His children and how He disciplines those who aren’t. God’s children will only be punished for a limited period of time. Those who are outside of God’s family will be destroyed forever. This brings up an important question.
What did Israel and Egypt do to deserve to continue to exist? It is obvious that they both were filled with evil. Israel had been sacrificing their own children. Egypt was worshiping everything under the sun and encouraging God’s people to do the same. How is it that they were allowed to continue to exist? Perhaps the easy way to answer this question is to point it at ourselves. Why did God allow you and I to exist as Christians? What did we do to deserve it? I hope that the answer is obvious: we didn’t do anything to deserve it and neither did Israel or Egypt. The reason they were saved is the same reason you and I were saved. God simply decided to do it. When God does things like this, it removes all pride doesn’t it? It also builds a living demonstration of His grace. Both Israel and Egypt stand today as examples of what happens when God decides to save.
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from Yahweh: “Yahweh says: ‘Stand in the court of Yahweh’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in Yahweh’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Don’t omit a word. It may be they will listen, and every man turn from his evil way; that I may relent from the evil which I intend to do to them because of the evil of their doings.’ You shall tell them, “Yahweh says: ‘If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, to listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I send to you, even rising up early and sending them, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” ’ ”
The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in Yahweh’s house. When Jeremiah had finished speaking all that Yahweh had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You shall surely die! Why have you prophesied in Yahweh’s name, saying, ‘This house will be like Shiloh, and this city will be desolate, without inhabitant?’ ” All the people were crowded around Jeremiah in Yahweh’s house.
It’s pretty clear that Jesus thought quite a bit about passages of the Bible like this one. He even said to beware when all men think well of you because they did that to the false prophets. Jesus made it clear that real prophets get in trouble, and we get a great illustration of that right here.
Here we read that God made it very clear to Jeremiah that he was to go into the temple area and speak exactly what he was told to speak by God. It is very obvious that Jeremiah didn’t have a choice here other than to go against God and not do what He said. He was between a rock and a hard place. God puts us in these positions sometimes. I believe He’s trying to get us to see who is really worthy of being feared. Should our society be what scares us or should disobeying God scare us? Thankfully, Jeremiah demonstrated the appropriate action here. God is the one to fear and that’s the One Jeremiah chose, but God also allowed the people to retaliate against him.
This is a hard one for me too. Why would God tell us to do something knowing that we are going to get in trouble? I’m pretty sure that many who hear what I’m saying have an answer because many of you have gone through trouble for your obedience to God. It’s amazing how many people look back and thank God for bringing them through it. Still, I don’t believe it’s something that we choose to have happen to ourselves.
Another thing that strikes me here is the severely irrational behavior of the people. They all decided to kill Jeremiah for saying: “This house will be like Shiloh…” but that’s not what He said! He said that if they refuse to repent, that these things would happen. By attacking Jeremiah, they act as if it is impossible for them to repent and save the temple from destruction! Their behavior demonstrates their dedication to sin and that’s all it does. To add to their sins, they decided to attack God’s messenger. God said here that all He was trying to do was to warn the people so that they would repent and He could stop His plan to destroy them, but instead of repenting, they added a few nails to their coffins.
This is the state of mankind. By nature, we are irrationally and hopelessly dedicated to our sin. We attack the messengers when God attempts to save us. It is only through the intervention of God by His grace that we ever have a chance to see the light. Thank God He chose to break through to us and cause us to reverse our path because we would have surely killed all His messengers and died without God.
John 1:16, 17 : From his fullness we all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
As it says in verse 14, Jesus is full of grace and truth. In verse 16 it says that because Jesus is full of grace, we receive it over and over again. This is a common theme in Christianity. Jesus gives us what He is already full of. We are to give to others out of the love that we are filled up with from God. God doesn’t expect us to come up with love out of nothing. He gives it to us out of His fullness. This one way to contrast Jesus Christ with the law of Moses.
The law of Moses was a very good thing in that it defined God’s holy requirements for man. Knowing God’s requirements does not make it any easier to do them, it just makes us aware of them. The law doesn’t cause us to understand the truth. We don’t get to ask “Why” when faced with a legal requirement. Imagine that you are pulled over in a car. You can’t strike up a conversation with the officer about why it is against the law to speed. The only truth the law cares about is whether or not you broke it.
Since Jesus is full of grace and truth we are given favor and told about why things are the way they are. In a world of law, this makes a big difference. It’s nice to know why something is the way it is. It is also nice to be favored by the judge. This is not to say that the judge is going to let us off easy just because He likes us. God would not be a good judge if He showed favoritism. The law is good because it clearly defines good and bad.
The law tells us what “good” means (Romans 7: 7, 8). God is good and will live by His own laws. He will not tolerate any lawbreakers (Romans 2:12-16). It isn’t that He’s mean, He’s just upholding the law for the sake of justice and goodness. The Bible shows us that Israel was unable to get to God by the law. So how does Christianity work if God didn’t get more lenient and man didn’t get any better? Jesus made the difference by paying the price for our sin and God sees what Jesus did. What Jesus did was acceptable to God as punishment for the wrong doing.
Because the price has already been paid, God is able to freely show us His favor or grace and to talk to us about the truth as friends (John 15:14, 15).
John 1:14 : The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Since it’s so easy to look things up in the Bible these days, I encourage you to look up the verses that are listed by reference in these lessons.
Here we read that Jesus became a real person. He wasn’t a ghost or some kind of spirit. He was a real “flesh” and bone person. John, in I John, talks much more about the physical reality of Jesus. Some people say that Jesus was not a real person but a non-physical entity. It is very clear from the Bible that Jesus was “flesh.” He really lived on earth and he really displayed His glory. I think that the glory he is talking about here is the glory that John witnessed at the transfiguration; a time when Jesus appeared to His disciples in his heavenly glory while he was on earth. There are accounts of this event in the Bible (see: Matthew 17:1-6)
This verse also says that Jesus is the only son of God. This may be confusing because he just got done writing earlier that we are God’s children too. It is important to realize that we are not children like Jesus is. The Bible says that we are children of God because of what Jesus did. Jesus is a child of God because He is God. In that sense He is the only one who is a Son of God in the way He is. We, on the other hand are God’s children because of Jesus. You can read more about the fact that you are a Son of God by reading more in I John 2:28 – 3:2.
Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” I have been a believer for long time and I am still only beginning to appreciate this. The grace of Jesus is His favor for us. He likes us, just because He likes us. He doesn’t like us because we are so good or beautiful or popular or anything else. He just likes us because he decided to. On top of this, he gives us truth. He didn’t just give us commandments. He gave us truth. When you know the truth, you get to believe, not just follow orders. We know that when you believe something you do follow orders because you want to. Someone who does what they want all the time is free. Logically, I can see that the truth is connected to freedom, but only when I believe in Jesus.